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■ ■■* 



(CLASS OF 1876) 

DECEMBER 3, 1920 









i^^rEfSER 3, 1920 


JPublished March tgio 





f ■■ : . : 





This book is a study of the technic of the drama. It 
is intended, not for those who want to write plays, but 
for those who wish to learn how plays are written now, 
and how they have been written in the past. It is the 
result of a belief that the fundamental principles of 
the drama are the same throughout the ages, and that 
they can be discovered as well in the plays of Sophocles 
as in the plays of Shakspere, as well in the plays of 
Moliere as in the plays of Ibsen. And therefore the 
author has not confined his attention to the English 
drama alone; he has preferred to consider the whole 
history of the theater, ancient and medieval and mod- 
ern, in the belief that this is the only method which 
will result in a real understanding of the dramatic 
practices of any particular period and of any particular 
people. He has held fast also to the conviction that 
all the masterpieces of the dramatic art were originally 
written to be performed by actors, in a theater, and 
before an audience of the dramatist's own contem- 
poraries; and he has therefore kept in mind always 
the theatrical circumstances which conditioned the 
work of the dramatist. In other words, this study is 
devoted mainly to an examination of the structural 
framework which the great dramatists of various epochs 
have given to their plays; and it discusses oply inci- 
dentally the psychology, the philosophy, and the po- 
etry which we now admire in these pieces. Although 
the author had no intention of neglecting the content 


of the masterpieces of the drama, he has centered his 
attention rather on the form wherein this content is 
presented, since it is only by so doing that he can set 
before the student cei^tain of the secrets of the art of the 

In the preparation of this volume, in which he has 
endeavored to consider the differing aspects of the 
playwright's craft, the author has availed himself freely 
of the various papers which he has published during 
the past few years in the North American Review and 
the Forunty the Atlantic and the Century ^ Scribner^s and 
PvinarrCs; but, of course, this material has been un- 
hesitatingly rehandled to adjust it to the ampler scheme 
of this more comprehensive treatment of the subject. 

The author takes pleasure in recording here his 
indebtedness to the friends who have kindly lent him 
their aid as this book was passing through the press, 
— Professors Ashley H. Thorndike and William W. 
Lawrence of Columbia University, and Professor 
Charles Sears Baldwin of Yale University. 

B. M. 

Columbia Universitt 

IN THE City of New York 

February 21, 1910. 


I. The Study op the Drama .... 1 

II. The Influence of the Actob ... 24 

III. The Influence of the Theateb . . 44 

IV. The Influence of the Audience . . 68 
V. The Law of the Drama 92 

VI. A Chapter of Definitions . . . 109 

VII. Traditions and Conventions • . . 132 

VIII. Dramatic Characterization . . . 152 

IX. The Logic of Construction . . . 175 

X. The Analysis of a Play • . . .211 

XI. The Elizabethan Dramatists . . . 232 

XII. The Poetic Drama and the Dramatic 

Poem 249 

XIII. The Three Unities 272 


A: Sugoestionb for Study . • • • 299 
B: Bibliographical Suggestions • • • 302 

Index . . . 309 


Stage of Theater built by Richelieu in Paris (1639) and 
occupied by Moliere (1661-1673) .... Frontispiece 

^ Plan of the Theater of Dionysus at Athens . 

Plan of the Roman Theater at Orange 

Plan of the Fortune Theater, London 

Plan of the Richelieu-Moliere Theater, Paris 

Plan of the Drury Lane Theater, London 

Plan of the Empire Theater, New York 

Remains of the Theater of Dionysus at Athens 

. 48 



. 60 

. 60 


. 74 

Restoration of the Stage of the Roman Theater at 
Orange 140 

[After a drawing by Paul Steck, from the model in the Li- 
brary of the Opera, Paris.] 

Stage-sets of the Italian Comedy-of -Masks in Seventeenth 
Century, as used by Moliere in many of his Plays . 172 

* [The plans were drawn by Albert D. Millar, Esq., on exactly the 
same scale, thus indicating the striking difference in size.] 


Interior of Dniry Lane Theater, London (1808) . . . 192 

[From an aquatint by Thomas Rowlandson. This theater 
was substantially identical with the earlier house on the 
same site, for which Sheridan wrote the "School for 
Scandal" (1777).] 

Interior of the Fortune Theater, London (1599) . . 238 

[From the restoration by Walter H. Godfrey, Esq., after 
the builder's contract. Reproduced (by permission) from 
an article by William Archer, Esq., in the Quarterly 

Restoration of the Stage on which a Passion-Play was 

acted at Valenciennes (1547) 292 

[From the model belonging to Columbia University, New 

Plan of the Passion-Play Stage at Valenciennes . . . 292 




A history of the stage is no trivial thing to those who wish to 
sti^dy human nature in all shapes and positions. It is of all things 
the most instructive, to see not only the reflection of manners and 
characters at several periods, but the modes of making their reflec- 
tion, and the manner of adapting it at those periods to the taste and 
disposition of mankind. The stage indeed may be considered as the 
republic of active literature, and its history as the history of that 
state. The great events of political history, when not combined with 
the same helps towards the study of the manners and characters of 
men, must be a study of an inferior nature. — Edmund Bukke, 
Letter to Edmund Malxme, 

He therefore who is acquainted with the works which have pleased 
different ages and different countries, and has formed his opinion 
upon them, has more materials, and more means of knowing what 
is analogous to the mind of man, than he who is conversant only with 
the works of his own age or country. What has pleased, and con- 
tinues to please, is likely to please again ; hence are derived the niles 
of art, and on this immediate foundation they must ever stand. — 
Sib Joshua Reynolds, Discourses on Painting. 

When we approach the study of the drama, we must 
begin by reminding ourselves that this art does not lie 
wholly within the limit of literature, a fact which makes 
investigation into its principles at once more inter- 
esting and more difficult. The novel, the short-story, 
the epic, the Ijn'ic, the essay, can all of them be weighed 
and measured by purely literary tests ; the drama can- 


not. And here it has a certain resemblance to history 
on the one hand, and to oratory on the other. There are 
not a few historians highly esteemed by their fellows 
whose work, however scientific it may be, lacks art, 
and is deficient in those twin qualities of literature 
which we term structure and style. There are public 
speakers, able to move multitudes by their impas- 
sioned appeals, whose perfervid addresses when put 
into chill print seem empty and inflated. So there are 
playwrights of the past as well as of the present, many 
of whose pieces, although they may have pleased the 
vast majority of playgoers when they were performed 
in the theater, are now none the less quite unworthy 
of serious criticism when the attempt is made to ana- 
lyze them from the standpoint of literature alone. The 
success achieved by these pieces on the stage itself is 
proof that they possessed theatrical effectiveness, — 
which is the first requisite of a good play. But even 
though they had this indispensable quality, they were 
not lifted up into literature by any mastery of structure, 
by any charm of style, by any grace of poetry, by any 
sincerity of treatment, or by any subtlety of psychology. 
Pieces of this kind are abundant in every period when 
the theater has been flourishing ; but they are the mere 
journalism of the stage. They are for their own day 
only, not for all time. 

We may even go further and point out that a panto- 
mime proves to us that there is at least one kind of play 
which can exist and achieve its purpose satisfactorily 
without the use of words, and thus without the aid 
of the most obvious element of literature. In a pan- 
tomime, we see a story told in action, by gestures only; 
and a few years ago an adroit and inventive French 


playwright composed a play without words, the " Pro- 
digal Son," in which he showed that it was possible to 
make a pantomime very interesting to the spectators 
in the theater and to endow it with all the needed ele- 
ments of the drama, especially pathos and humor. 
And the ingenious narratives in action devised of late 
for the moving-picture machines are equal evidence of 
the adequacy of pantomime to tell a dramatic story, 
either serious or comic, so clearly that every beholder 
can apprehend it at once. 

We may note also that while the drama does not 
lie wholly within the limits of literature, it is at liberty 
to call to its aid others of the arts, not only the art of 
the actor, — with which the art of the playwright must 
ever be most intimately associated, — but even the arts 
of the musician, of the painter, and of the sculptor. It 
can force each of these into its service whenever it 
wishes, and it can borrow from them any device it may 
need. Not without good reason did Wagner assert that 
the music-drama was "the art-work of the future," 
since the theater is the one place where the arts may 
all unite, each contributing its share to the harmony 
of the whole. 

Thus it is impossible to consider the drama profit- 
ably apart from the theater in which it was born and 
in which it reveals itself in its completest perfection. 
All the masterpieces of the dramatic art were planned 
and elaborated on purpose to be performed by actors, 
in a theater, and before an audience of the poet's con- 
temporaries. The great dramas of the mighty masters, 
without a single exception, were intended to be played 
rather than to be read ; they were prepared primarily 
for the stage, and only secondarily — if at all — for 


the study. Neither Shakspere nor Moliere was eager 
to publish his immortal plays in his own lifetime, 
seemingly careless, each of them, in regard to any 
other judgment than that which had been passed in 
the theater itself. Lope de Vega and Calderon took 
the same attitude. They had contrived their plots in 
accordance with the conditions of the theaters of their 
own time, the only conditions with which they were 
familiar; they had fitted the chief parts to the best of 
their fellow-actors ; and they may very well have dis- 
trusted any criticism not the result of the actual per- 
formance under the special conditions with which they 
themselves were content. Indeed, Moliere, in the 
preface to his " Precieuses Ridicules," was emphatic 
in declaring his own willingness to abide by the test 
of the theater alone and to refrain from any appeal 
to the test of the library. Again in another preface, 
that to his "Amour Medecin," Moliere asserted that 
everybody knows "comedies are written only to be 



When we take up the study of any art, we find that 
there are two ways of approach. We may trace the 
growth of the art, or we may inquire into its processes. 
In the one case we consider its history, and in the other 
we examine its practice. Either of these methods is 
certain to lead us into pleasant paths of inquiry. 

If we determine to investigate the slow development 
of the drama through the ages, we shall find ourselves 
in time better fitted to answer questions which are 
often very puzzling to those who do not recognize the 
necessity of going back into the past if they wish to 
understand the present. Why did the Greeks put a 


chorus into their tragedies ? In Shakspere's plays, why 
do the scenes change so frequently ? These axe queries 
which many a commentator has striven vainly to an- 
swer, — simply for lack of historical knowledge. Re- 
search into the origin of the Attic theater reveals to us 
that the Greeks did not put a chorus into their tragedies 
and that on the contrary they put a tragedy into their 
chorus, — since it was out of the chorus that their 
drama was evolved. Inquiry into the growth of the 
Elizabethan theater shows us that the scenes in Shak- 
spere's plays do not change frequently, — or at least 
that the scenery does not, since in Shakspere's stage 
there was apparently no scenery to change. 

On the other hand, we shall not err if we decide to 
devote ourselves not so much to the development of 
the drama as to its technic. The basis of a genuine ap- 
preciation of any art is an understanding of its prin- 
ciples. Any attempt to discuss architecture as separate 
from construction is certain to be sterile, for the beauty 
of architecture is often in the exquisite adaptation of 
the means to the end, — a beauty not to be appre- 
ciated by those who are indifferent toward the technic 
of the art of building. So also some acquaintance with 
the various methods of putting pigments on canvas 
is a condition precedent to any firm grasp of the prin- 
ciples of pictorial art. And the technic of the drama 
is less simple than either of these, since the architect 
builds in stone and steel, and the painter draws with 
colors, whereas the work of the dramatist must be de- 
vised for interpretation by the actor. The dramatic 
art is really twofold, since it is the result of a neces- 
sary union of the efiforts of the playwright and of the 
player. Neither of them is able to accomplish his pur- 


pose without the aid of the other. To achieve a dra- 
matic masterpiece, the dramaturgic skill of the author 
must utilize to the utmost the histrionic skill of the 

As we seize the importance of these lines of ap- 
proach, the historical and the practical, we see that a 
sound knowledge of the drama is not possible unless 
we seek to attain both a perspective of its develop- 
ment and an insight into its technic. Just as the study 
of music is most stimulating when it includes an in- 
quiry into the value of each of the several instruments, 
and also into their gradual combination into the most 
marvelous instrument of them all, the modern orches- 
tra, so the study of the drama is most likely to be profit- 
able when it leads us to consider the successive modi- 
fications in the shape and size of the theaters wherein 
plays were acted; the varying circumstances of per- 
formance to which the playwrights had to conform ; the 
conventions of the art, some of them shifting from 
century to century or from country to country, and 
some of them immutable in the very nature of the 
drama. Especially stimulating is it for us to recognize 
the real unity of history, the continuity of the art of the 
drama, which enables us so often to explain the past 
by the present and the present by the past. 

If we combine the study of technic with an inquiry 
into the history of the dramatic art, we shall find our- 
selves in a condition to make many suggestive com- 
parisons. We shall be in a position to see, for instance, 
that the comedies of Menander were probably in their 
outward form very like the comedies of Moliere, and 
that the former varied from the latter in content partly 
because of the difference between the two dramatists 


themselves, and partly because of the unlikeness of 
the social conditions in which they were each of them 
placed. We shall find pleasure in contrasting the 
comedy-of-manners as it was composed at the end of 
the eighteenth century in France by Beaumarchais 
and in England by Sheridan, arch-wits both of them 
and masters of inventive ingenuity. 

We can also make the striking comparison between 
two dramatists of genius separated by a gulf of twenty 
centuries, Sophocles and Ibsen, discovering in the 
"(Edipus the King" of the one the same massive sim- 
plicity that strikes us in the " Ghosts" of the other, the 
Greek showing how fate is inevitable and the Scan- 
dinavian seeking to prove that heredity is inexorable. 
Sophocles, it is true, " saw life clearly and saw it whole," 
while Ibsen seems to some of us to have rather a mor- 
bid liking for the abnormal ; but none the less is there 
a startling similarity in their constructive ability and 
in their surpassing technical mastery. We can instruct 
ourselves by tracing the potent influence exerted now 
and again by the drama of one nation upon that of 
another, inquiring how Spanish pieces affected Cor- 
neille in his tragedies, how Italian plays supplied an 
early model to Molifere for his comedies, how French 
comedy was the exciting cause of English comedy 
under the Restoration, how the English drama served 
to stimulate Lessing in his reform of the German drama, 
how the social plays of Ibsen have powerfully modified 
the aims and ideals of latter-day dramatists in France 
and in Spain, in Germany and in England. And in 
preparing ourselves to make these international com- 
parisons we can scarcely fail to gain a more intimate 
knowledge of the dramatic art. 



But we need always to bear in mind that Sheridan 
and Beaumarchais, Shakspere and Moliere, Sophocles 
and Ibsen, however much they may differ from one 
another, are alike in this at least, — that they all repre- 
sent an advanced development of the drama as a de- 
partment of literature and that they w«re preceded 
and made possible by countless unknown experimen- 
ters. The masterpieces of these accomplished crafts- 
men are the final achievements of a long effort sustained 
through the dim centuries. They are the culmination 
of an artistic evolution, the beginnings of which must 
be looked for far back in the history of mankind. They 
are the final expression in cultivated and self-conscious 
conmiunities of the primary play-impulse of primitive 
man. The literary drama, the play in which the finer 
attributes of structure and style are added to essential 
theatrical effectiveness, is the direct outgrowth of a 
wholly unliterary drama, which emerges into view 
very early in the annals of civilization. At first, when 
man still lingers in the lower levels of savagery and 
baxbaxism, the dramatic instinct expresses itself boldly 
enough, but crudely and coarsely. It is only after long 
centuries of striving that a more shapely drama at last 
emerges in view, even if far back in man's progress 
upward we are able to discover that desire to personate 
and to get out of himself, which is the foundation of 
the art of the theater. Very early also can we perceive 
the allied pleasure of being a passive spectator of this 
active personation. 

Until recently, it was the general belief that the drama 
arrived comparatively late in the history of any litera- 
ture. This belief is voiced eloquently in Victor Hugo's 


preface to " Cromwell, " in which he asserts that the 
chronological sequence is first of all the lyric, then the 
epic, and finally the drama. There is a sense in which 
this is true ; that is to say, the literary drama, the play 
which is also poetic or philosophic, comes into being 
only after the lyric and the epic have given flexibility 
and elevation to the language and after they have also 
invented the stories which the literary dramatist can re- 
handle. But the researches of the anthropologists have 
made it indisputable that there is a dramatic element 
in the very earliest lyrics themselves, and that a rude 
drama is perhaps earlier even than these earliest lyrics. 
Letourneau insists that the drama in its rudimentary 

" goes back to the very origiii of literary esthetics, for choral 
and mimic dances constitute nearly all the literature of primi- 
tive peoples, and a rudiment of scenic art has been found, 
even in Tasmania, among an extremely inferior race. In 
reality, scenic poetry preceded all other kinds, and most fre- 
quently constituted their mold. By the simultaneous employ- 
ment of mimicry, song, speech, and instrumental music, the 
opera-ballet of the early ages was the form of esthetics most 
fitted strongly to impress spectators and actors, and at the 
same time to satisfy a very lively psychical want, that of pro- 
jecting mental images qutward, of reproducing with all the 
relief of reality what exists in the brain only in the state of 
recollection or desire. The civilized theater is only the natural 
development of this opera-ballet, and it preserves an equal 
attraction and an equal power, even after losing the lyrical 
form, which dated from its origin." 

And Hirn takes the same point of view. 

"A literary drama, which fulfils all the claims of a work 
of art," so he declares, " is possible only on a highly advanced 
level of culture, and it has consequently by most authors on 
esthetics been considered as the latest of all art-forms. When 


dealing, however, with the productions of primitive tribes, 
we have to adopt a lower esthetic standard. Although we 
do not meet with any tragedies, nor even with any real come- 
dies, at this stage of evolution, we can at least point to the 
fact that simple farces, pantomimes and pantomimic dances 
are to be found among tribes who have so far been unable 
to create any kind of epic, and whose lyrical poetry is re- 
stricted to a few rhythmical phrases with no intrinsic mean- 
ing. And if we use the word in its widest sense, so as to in- 
clude every representation by action, drama can be spoken 
of as the very earliest of all the imitative arts. It was certainly 
in use long before the invention of writing, either by pictures 
or letters ; perhaps it is even older than language itself. As 
an outward sign of thought, action is more immediate than 

Grosse is quite as emphatic. 

"' The drama is regarded by most historians of literature 
and esthetics as the latest form of poetry; yet we can say, 
with a certain degree of right, that it is the earliest. The 
.^peculiar feature of the drama is the representation of an 
event simultaneously by speech and mimicry. In this sense 
nearly every primitive tale is a drama, for the teller is not 
simply relating history, but he enlivens his words with ap- 
propriate intonations and gestures. . . . Childrm and prim- 
itive peoples are unable to make any narration without ac- 
companying it with the appropriate demeanor and play of 
gesture. Pure relation requires a command of language and 
of one's own body which is rarely found among civilized 
men and hardly ever among savages. Pure epic is therefore 
probably the latest among the three chief kinds of poetry." 

Grosse further maintains that "common usage 
means by a drama, not the relation of an event en- 
livened by mimicry, but its direct mimic and verbal 
representation by several persons " ; and he asserts that 
"we can prove the existence of the drama even in 
this narrow sense in the lowest stages of culture." He 


then points out that these primitive plays are partly 
mimetic, merely imitative representations of hunting 
or fighting, but that they are ever tending to rise to 
the depiction of '^ an action in constant devdopment." 
He admits that ''words play so subordinate a part in 
the dramatic performances of hunting peoples that they 
rather resemble our pantomimes than our dramas," 
— but a pantomime may be just as truly dramatic as 
a play in which there is spoken dialogue. 


In the quotations from Professor Grosse, there is 
one specially significant passage, — that in which he 
classes togetiier " chSidxen and primitive peoples." If 
we wish to understand the feelings and the actions of 
primitive peoples, we can get great help from a study 
of the ways of children. It seems now to be generally 
admitted that in our infancy and childhood we live over 
again, more or less completely, the slow evolution of 
humanity from savagery to civilization. We find in 
children the same tendency to mimicry, the same de- 
sire to personate which we discover in primitive peo- 
ples. Professor William James, after noting that ''a 
successful piece of mimicry gives to both bystanders 
and mimic a peculiar kind of esthetic pleasure," and 
that **the dramatic impulse, the tendency to pretend 
one is some one else, contains this pleasure of mimiqry 
as one of its elements," then remarks that " in young 
children this instinct often knows no bounds." He 
cites one of his own children who, at the age of three, 
delighted in playing that he was " a hyena or a horse- 
car, or whatever the feigned object might be." A hyena 
or a horse-car ! — that is to say, it did not matter to the 


child whether the object he impersonated was animate 
or inanimate. This childish attitude is excellently il- 
lustrated in the familiar anecdote of the three little 
boys who explained that they were " playing automo- 
bile." The eldest was the chauffeur, the next was the 
machine itself, — while Baby ran in the rear, repre- 
senting the lingering odor of the gasoline. 

A more elaborate illustration of this youthful fond- 
ness for assuming another personality can be found 
in the chapter of the " Adventures of Tom Sawyer," 
wherein we see Tom about to begin the distasteful task 
of whitewashing his aunt's fence. Just then his friend 
Ben Rogers hove in sight eating an apple and 

" giving a long, melodious whoop, at intervals, followed by 
a deep-toned ding-dong-dong, ding-dong-dong, for he was 
personating a steamboat. As he drew near, he slackened 
speed, took the middle of the street, leaned far over to star- 
board and rounded to ponderously and with laborious pomp 
and circumstance - — for he was personating the Big Mis- 
souri, and considered himself to be drawing nine feet of wa- 
ter. He was boat and captain and engine-bells combined, 
so he had to imagine himself standing on his own hurricane- 
deck giving the orders and executing them : 

'*' Stop her, sir ! Ting-a-ling-ling!' The headway ran al- 
most out and he drew up slowly toward the sidewalk. 

" * Ship up to back! Ting-a-ling-ling!' His hands straight- 
ened and stiffened down to his sides. 

** * Set her back on the stabboard ! Ting-a-ling-ling ! 
Chow! ch-chow-wow! Chow!' His right hand, meantime, 
describing stately circles, — for it was representing a forty- 
foot wheel. 

" * Let her go back to thelabboard ! Ting-a-ling-ling ! Chow- 
ch-chow-chow ! ' The left hand began to describe circles. 

** ' Stop the stabboard ! Ting-a-ling-ling ! Stop the labboard ! 
Come ahead on the stabboard! Stop her! Let your outside 


turn over slow! Ting-a-ling-ling! Chow-ow-ow! Get out 
that head-line ! Lively now ! Come out with your spring- 
line — what 're you about there ! Take a turn round that 
stump with the bight of it ! Stand by that stage, now — let 
her go! Done with the engines, sir ! Ting-a-ling-ling! Sh't! 
s'h't! sh't!' (trying the gage-cocks)." 

A friendly correspondent in Arizona once sent me 
an account of a play his two children had performed. 
They were found in the ruins of an old house ; and in 
a sad voice the boy explained that they were " offering 
up little Isaac." A broken toy was Isaac. A brick un- 
der a bush was the ram. They told how they had built 
a fire under Isaac, admitting at once that the fire was 
only make-believe. And when they were asked, " Who 
was Abraham ? " the little girl promptly answered, 
" We was." The girl was four years old and the boy 
was only three. It is easy to seize the likeness between 
the scene thus acted by these children and the rudi- 
mentary dramas which are performed by savages. 
Underlying both is the desire to personate, the impulse 
to take part in an action, and the abundant willing- 
ness to make believe. 

The real diflference between the little play of these 
children and the rudimentary drama of savages lies in 
the fact that the children are acting as individuals, 
whereas the savages are playing in large groups. In the 
rudimentary drama of savages there is likely to be a 
communal element. At certain seasons of the year, 
especially at springtime and at harvest, at midsummer 
and at midwinter, the whole community takes part in 
the performance, — or if not the whole community, a 


representative group which expresses the sentiment of 
all. In the primitive stages of poetry, so Professor 
Gummere tells us, there is seen 

**a throng of people without skill to read or write, without 
ability to project themselves into the future, or to compare 
themselves with the past, or even to range their experience 
with the experience of other oonununities, gathered in festal 
mood, and by loud song, perfect rhythm and energetic dance, 
expressing their feelings over an event of quite local origin, 
present appeal and common interest. Here, in point of evo- 
lution, is the human basis of poetry, the foundation courses 
of the pyramid ; in point of poetic process here is the social 
as opposed to the individual element." 

Sometimes the individual element is evolved after 
a while out of the social element, or is superadded to 
it ; and then we may have a rapid development of the 
drama. This is the way that the Greeks slowly achieved 
their glorious drama. Out of the humblest origins, it 
was elevated to a lofty pinnacle. As Sir Richard Jebb 
has told us, the Greek drama 

'* sprang from the species of lyric poem called the dithyramb 
. . . originally a convivial song definitely associated with 
the god Dionysus ... a song to the wine-god had presum- 
ably a wild, impassioned character, and was accompanied 
with gesticulation. . . . When Arion formed his dithyram- 
bic chorus of satyrs, he was assigning the song of Dionysus 
to specially appropriate performers . . . and he was also 
making the performance something more lively, more char- 
acteristic than an ordinary choral song. Thespis, in pro- 
ducing a dithyrambic chorus, came forward as a reciter of 
verses, addressing his chorus of satyrs and doubtless per- 
sonating a satyr himself. . . . But even then the entertain- 
ment fell short of being dramatic. The reciter of verses who 
addressed the dithyrambic chorus could indeed relate action. 
But action could not yet be represented as taking place be- 


fore the eyes of the spectators. . . . Instead of the single re- 
citer, iEschylus introduced two persons, both, like the single 
reciter, detached from the chorus. These two persons could 
hold a dialogue and could represent action. By this change 
i£schylus altered the whole character of the lyric tragedy, 
and created a drama. The dialogue between the actors now 
became the dominant feature of the entertainment ; the part 
of the lyric chorus, though still very important, had now 
only a diminished importance." 

Sophocles* employed a third actor, and each of these 
three performers could appear in several characters. 
It was possible then to show a story in action and to 
present before the spectators that conflict of human 
wills which ha^ ever been the mainspring of the drama. 

These are the successive stages of the evolution of 
the noble Greek drama out of a rude communal song. 
And not unlike are the successive stages of the evolu- 
tion of the drama of the several modern languages out 
of very simple mimetic interpolations into the ritual 
of the medieval church as prescribed for Christmas 
and Easter. At Christmas, a single chorister was set 
apart to announce the glad tidings, and a group of 
choristers was assigned to represent the shepherds 
who were guided by a star to the manger. At Easter, 
three priests spoke the words set down for the three 
Marys, at the tomb, and another appeared "in the 
likeness of a gardener." In time, the Christmas cycle 
of dialogues and hymns and narrative was combined 
with the Easter cycle, and the passion-play came into 
being. Its several episodes had each of them been de- 
vised to illustrate the service of a special day of the 
church year; and they had each of them been first 
performed in Latin in the church by ecclesiastics or 
choristers. Then, after the mystery was full grown. 


it was felt to be too great a burden ; and it was thrust 
out of the church, confided to laymen and translated 
into the several vernaculars. The laymen who took it 
over meant to continue all the traditions of the per- 
formance within the church, yet sooner or later they 
were led to apply the same methods to secular stories. 
Thus it was that in each of the modern languages the 
drama had a common origin in a religious exercise, 
and that in each of them it developed in accord with 
racial characteristics, so that in time there came to be 
a wide differentiation between the plays performed in 
the several tongues, although they were all outflower- 
ings from the same Latin stock. 

As we study these evolutions of dramatic form, we 
see that what was at first more or less communal be- 
comes more or less individual, and what was at first 
more or less spontaneous becomes more or less tradi- 
tional. In time, custom crystallizes ; and then out of the 
established custom there is a new departure, another 
step forward. There comes into existence an accepted 
way of telling a story in action, a formula satisfactory 
to actors and spectators alike ; and this formula tends 
constantly to become more effective theatrically as the 
casual performers more and more take on the aspect 
of professionals, conscious that they are exercising an 
art. The plays they present may still be rough and crude ; 
their art may be rather elementary as yet; but it is 
alive and it contains the possibility of progress. At 
this moment, the drama is still unliterary ; there is little 
skill of structure, little polish of style, little insight into 
human nature. But the dramatic formula is slowly get- 
ting into shape, and making itself ready for the hand 
of the literary artist whenever he shall happen along. 


As the earlier unliteraiy efforts have not been pre- 
served, no one can now specify with any certainty the 
exact moment when the Greek drama began to lift it- 
self into literature. Only literature is permanent ; and 
the unliterary drama is never cherished and guarded. 
A few of the plays of iEschylus have been handed down 
to us, probably the best of them, since only the best 
would be multiplied in many manuscripts ; and we can 
see that they are literature beyond all question. But 
the dialogues of Thespis with his chorus have all per- 
ished; and we shall never know whether or not they 
really attained to literature. In the Middle Ages, it was 
not till long after Latin had given place to the several 
vernaculars that we begin to find gleams of literary 
merit; and the most of the mysteries and moralities, 
which have been abundantly preserved, are deadly dull, 
whether they are in French or English, in Italian or 
in German. The mystery had been succeeded in Eng- 
land by the chronicle-play, and this had long pleased 
the public before any man of indisputable literary gift 
undertook to compose it. And in France, it was not 
until Corneille succeeded Hardy that the drama rose 
to the lofty level of poetry. 

Corneille did at first very much what Hardy had 
done, but he did it better, being more richly endowed 
with the native playmaking instinct. So Marlowe did 
very much what his predecessors had done, using the 
same rough framework, but putting into the mouths 
of his characters the mighty lines of which he alone 
was then capable. At any period of the development 
of the drama, in the days of Corneille as in the days of 
Marlowe, in our own time as well, the same framework, 
the same external form, the same method of handling 


the material, characterize both the literary play and 
the unliterary play. They are always very much alike 
in outward appearance; it is in the inner soul that 
they differ. Kyd's "Spanish Tragedy" belongs to the 
strange tjrpe of piece now known as the tragedy-of- 
blood, and so does Shakspere's "Hamlet." Victor 
Hugo's "Ruy Bias" is essentially a melodrama distin- 
guishable only by its lyrical affluence from the contem- 
porary pieces of Ducange and Pixerecourt, on which 
it was modeled. To-day, the social dramas of Ibsen 
and Hervieu, the comedies of Barrie and Shaw, are 
composed in accord with the same formula which serves 
for the hack playwrights who write uninspired pieces 
to order. The diflFerence between the play which is lit- 
erature and the play which is not literature, which is in 
fact only a form of journalism, sufficient unto the day 
and no more, — this diflFerence is not external but in- 
ternal. It is to be felt far more easily than it is to be 
defined. And the play which we gladly hail as literature 
succeeds in the theater, pleases its many audiences, 
delights a succession of spectators, year after year, 
and century after century, because of its possession 
of qualities not in themselves literary, because it has 
the intangible but essential something which makes 
a story interesting to the multitude when it is set forth 
in action on the stage. 

The unliterary plays of any period are likely to be 
neglected by the historian of dramatic literature be- 
cause they are now more or less unreadable, although 
in their own day they were preeminently actable. These 
unliterary plays are likely also to be inaccessible, even 
if they have been preserved, which is rarely the case. 
Of the thousands of plays produced in Greece, we have 


only a few selected masterpieces of -^schylus, Sopho- 
cles, and Euripides. Of the thousands of plays pro- 
duced in England while Shakspere was yet alive, only 
a few hundreds have come down to us to-day. In so 
far as the writings of the less literary of the Elizabethan 
playwrights have been transmitted to us, they are in- 
valuable for the light they cast on the theatrical con- 
ditions of the time and for the insight they give us into 
the circumstances of actual performance, the circum- 
stances which governed Shakspere as much as they 
governed Heywood; but in themselves these pieces 
are not really important. 

Charles Lamb ventured to call Heywood a "prose 
Shakspere," but it is only now and again in a few pas- 
sages of "A Woman Killed with Kindness," and occa- 
sionally in another play or two, that Heywood rises to 
the level of literature. Heywood was the most adroit 
and prolific playwright of his time; but for the most 
part his work is journeyman and journalistic ; it was 
actable then, but it is well-nigh unreadable now. Yet 
Heywood's plays were written for the same audiences 
as Shakspere's, and they conform to the same theatri- 
cal conditions. And in the nineteenth century in France, 
Scribe was the master of the theater, a wizard of dra- 
maturgy, a technician of marvelous dexterity. But he 
is a man of the theater only ; he is not a man of let- 
ters, and very few of his countless pieces have any pre- 
tension to literature. Yet when Dumas ^Z^ and Augier 
followed in Scribe's footsteps and borrowed Scribe's 
formula, enlarging it to contain their vision of life, 
they were able to lift their plays into literature. They 
were men of the theater who were also men of letters, 
and their plays are readable as well as actable. 



When we undertake to consider whether a play de- 
serves to be considered as literature or not, we need 
to clear our minds of a current misconception as to the 
constituents of literary merit, so-called. True literary 
merit is not a matter of fine writing, of pretty phrases, 
of style only. The real literary merit of a play does not 
reside so much in its mere wording as in its solid struc- 
ture, in the logic of the plot, in the sincerity of its char- 
acter-drawing. Fine writing has never yet made a 
good play ; and the good play is a good play independ- 
ently of all its phrases, however glowing and gorgeous 
ihese may be. This Aristotle saw quite as clearly as 
Lessing and Sarcey ; and he was emphatic in insisting 
on the primary importance of plot, of the story which 
is interesting in itself, and which is interestingly articu- 
lated. We may be sure that, the great Greek critic 
would have approved of the shrewd remark of a mod- 
ern Frenchman, to the effect that the skeleton of a 
good play is always a pantomime. That is to say, the 
story must be so strong and so clear that it can stand 
by itself, whether well or ill written, whether the au- 
dience can or cannot appreciate its added poetry or 
philosophy. We may see many things in "Hamlet," 
we may acclaim it as the absolute masterpiece of the 
poetic drama ; but it would move the majority of the 
spectators if it should be acted before the inmates of 
a deaf-and-dumb asylum, unable to seize the beauties 
which delight us, but quite capable of being carried 
away by the sheer power of the splendidly theatric 

This is what has always been felt by the literary as 
well as by the unliterary playwrights. Scribe used to 


say that "when my subject is good, when my scenario 
is very clear, very complete, I might have the play writ- 
ten by my servant; he would be sustained by the situa- 
tion; — and the play would succeed." From Scribe, 
who was only an ingenious mechanician of the drama, 
this may not surprise us ; but his saying would not be 
greatly objected to by any true dramatist, poet, or prose- 
man, for it is only an overstatement of the truth. Me- 
nander, the master of Greek comedy, was once asked 
about his new play, so Plutarch tells us, and he an- 
swered : " It is composed and ready ; I have only the 
verses to write." Racine's son reports an almost iden- 
tical remark of his father's in answer to a similar in- 
quiry. And there is no dispute possible as to the ele- 
vated position attained by Racine and by Menander 
when they are judged by purely literary standards. 

In other words, the literary quality is something that 
may be added to a drama, but which is not essential to 
its value as a play in the theater itself. And while we 
cannot have a great play unless it is lifted into litera- 
ture by skill of structure, by veracity of character, by 
felicity of dialogue, it does not attract the public by its 
possession of these qualities alone. Joseph Jefferson, 
speaking out of his long experience on the stage, de- 
clared that " you may have all the good literature you 
wish in a play, — if it does not interfere with the play's 
actkm." He added that " the absence of fine writing in 
a play will not injure it if the story and construction 
are right. Literary merit will enhance the chances of 
success if it be subservient to the action." And so de- 
claring his opinion, Jefferson was only echoing what 
Aristotle had said two thousand years earlier. 

This is a hard saying for the merely literary critic. 


whether it comes from the mouth of the Greek philoso- 
pher or from that of the American comedian ; and yet 
it needs to be taken to heart by all who seek to pene- 
trate to a real knowledge of the drama. The merely 
literary critic is competent only to perceive the less im- 
portant of the merely literary qualities of a drama. He 
Sa appreciate the external poetry with which the ac- 
tion of the play may be clothed ; but this action itself is 
not easy for him to estimate at its true value. He studies 
the play in the library, where the quality of style is 
most obvious, and not in the theater, where story and 
structure are more important. The merely literary 
critic tends to neglect, and perhaps even to despise, the 
purely theatrical qualities which must always sustain a 
vital play; and he does not care to consider the con- 
temporary unliterary pieces which would often help him 
to a better understanding of these purely theatrical 
qualities, revealed at once where the piece is acted on 
the stage. 

There is one thing that every student of the drama 
should try to train himself to accomplish. In reading 
any play, ancient or modern, in English or in a foreign 
tongue, he should endeavor always to transport him- 
self from the library into the theater and to visualize 
an actual performance. He should strive to translate 
the cold printed page of the book into the warm action 
of living performers on the stage. He should call up 
a mental image of the scene where the story is laid ; and 
he should evoke moving pictures of the several char- 
acters, not merely with his eye reading the dialogue, but 
with his ear hearing it as actors would speak it. He 
should do his best to put himself in the place of the 
spectators for whose enjoyment the play was originally 


composed ; and he should make what Jebb aptly termed 
an " effort of imaginative sympathy," that he may as 
far as possible realize the conditions of actual perform- 
ance. Stevenson recorded that his friend, Fleeming 
Jenkin, had acquired this art of visualizing a drama 
from the printed page, and he asserted that this was 
** a knack, the fruit of much knowledge and some im- 
agination, comparable to that of reading score." To 
do this is not easy; indeed, to achieve it completely 
is not possible; but the effort, however feeble it may 
be, is worth while. And it will be its own reward, for 
only by its aid can we teach ourselves and train our- 
selves to disentangle the essential theatrical effective- 
ness of the masterpieces of the great dramatic poets. 



For ill can Poeby express 

Full many a tone of thought sublime. 
And Painting, mute and motionless. 

Steals but a glance*of time. 
But by the mighty actor brought 

Illusions perfect triumphs come, — 
Verse ceases to be airy thought. 

And Sculpture to be dumb. 

Thomas Campbell, To John Philip Kemhle, 

In the nineteenth century, there were British and Amer- 
ican poets of high distinction who were attracted to 
the dramatic form, and who sought to express them- 
selves in it, but without considering the conditions of 
the stage of their own time, which seemed to them a 
period of decadence. They disregarded the spectator 
in the theater itself and sought to interest solely the 
reader in the library. They liked to think of themselves 
as dramatists and to claim praise for dramatic achieve- 
ment, but without facing the ordeal by fire before the 
footlights. Looking upon the drama as an easy form, 
they took no trouble to spy out its secrets or to master 
its technic. And perhaps deep down in their hearts, 
there was a vague contempt for the acted drama, be- 
cause it had to appeal to the mere mob, to the vulgar 
throng. We can listen to their sentiments as these 


axe voiced by the Poet in the Prologue on the Stage of 
Goethe's "Faust": — 

" Speak not to me of yonder motley masses. 
Whom but to see puts out the fire of Song! 

Hide from my view the surging crowd that passes. 
And in its whirlpool forces us along! 

No, lead me where some heavenly silence glasses 
The purer joys that round the Poet throng." 

This attitude may not be unbecoming in the lyric 
poet, who has but to express his own emotions; but 
it is impossible in a true dramatic poet, who feels that 
what he has wrought is not complete until he has seen 
it bodied forth by actors on the stage before the motley 
masses and before the surging crowd. The true drama- 
tic poet would never hesitate to adopt Moliere's state- 
ment of his own practice: ** I accept easily enough the 
decisions of the multitude, and I hold it as difficult to 
assail a work which the public approves as to defend 
one which it condemns." But however much the lyric 
poet may detach himself from the surging crowd and 
despise the motley masses, even he must not forget 
his readers absolutely; it is only at his peril that he 
can neglect the duty of being readable. Taine declared 
that Browning had been guilty of this fault in " The 
Ring and the Book," wherein the poet " never thinks 
of the reader, and lets his characters talk as though 
no one were to read their speeches." 

What may be only a minor fault in the Ijrric poet 
becomes a gross blunder in the dramatic poet, who can 
never claim the right of solitary self-expression, which 
the lyrist may assert. The drama has for its basis an 
appeal to the whole public, and not to any coterie of 
dilettants. Since we write poems to be performed, 


" our first duty ought to be to please the court and the 
people and to attract a great throng to their perform- 
ances " ; so said Corneille, declaring frankly the doctrine 
of every genuine dramatic poet. " We must, if we can, 
abide by the rules, so as not to displease the learned, 
and to receive universal applause; but, above all else, 
let us win the voice of the people." The great drama- 
tists of every period when the drama was flourishing 
would have echoed this firm declaration of Cor- 
neille's. By their own splendid experience, they had 
learnt how greatly the artist may profit by a resolute 
struggle with limitations and with obstacles; and they 
could scarcely refrain from contempt for the timorous 
poets who have shrunk from this profitable effort. And 
as the result of a choice of the easier path, these craven 
bards have failed to reach the goal toward which they 
fondly believed themselves to be aiming. The closet- 
dramas are all unactable; most of them are unread- 
able ; and many of them are unspeakable. Although 
important poets have condescended to the composi- 
tion of plays not intended to be played, their impor- 
tance is not due to their closet-dramas ; and perhaps 
their fame would be almost as high if they had re- 
frained from these poems in dialogue. 

The dramatic poets — Sophocles, Shakspere, Mo- 
li^re — have always been willing to take thought of 
the players by whom their plays were to be presented, 
and of the playgoers whom they hoped to attract in 
motley masses. Consciously, to some extent, and un- 
consciously more often, they shaped the stories they 
were telling to the circumstances of the actual perform- 
ance customary on the contemporary stage. Whether 
they knew it or not, their great tragedies and their 


great comedies, as we have them now, are what they 
are, partly because of the influence of the several ac- 
tors for whom they devised their chief characters, 
partly because the theater to which they were accus- 
tomed was of a certain size and had certain peculiarities 
of structure, and partly because the spectators they 
wished to move had certain prejudices and certain 
preconceptions natural to their race and to their era. 
This is why it is useful to consider the influence which 
the actor, the theater, and the audience can severally 
exert upon the dramatist, — influences necessarily 
felt by every dramatic poet, great or small, in every 
period in the long evolution of the drama. 


Of these three influences, the most immediate is that 
of the actors, with whom the playwright has ever 
to work in cordial sympathy, and without whose as- 
sistance his play cannot be represented as he has con- 
ceived it. The critic nowadays who looks upon the 
drama as lying wholly within the circle of literature, 
and who fails to perceive its vital connection with the 
actual theater, is often moved to make it a matter of 
reproach to certain contemporary playwrights that 
they are wont to write plays to fit a special actor or a 
special actress. In thus finding fault, the critic reveals 
not only his misunderstanding of the needful relation 
between the dramatist and the performers who are to 
personate his characters, but also an inability to ap- 
preciate the way in which the mind of the artist is often 
set in motion by accidents that may seem casual and 

In every art, there is often a startling disproportion 


between the exciting cause and the ultimate result. 
We might almost liken the artist to the oyster which 
is moved by a grain of sand to produce a pearl of great 
price. More than one of the most triumphant artistic 
feats of the Italian Renascence is what it is because 
the painter had to make the best of a certain particular 
wall-space over an altar or because the sculptor had 
to get his statue out of a given block of marble of un- 
usual shape and size. The painter and the sculptor 
accepted the limitations of the wall-space and of the 
marble-block, and found their profit in so doing; they 
made a stepping-stone out of that which would have 
been only a stumbling-block to the less ingenious and 
the less imaginative. 

So the artist in playmaking sees his opportunity 
and finds his profit in the special accomplishments 
of the actors of his own time. Of course, the dramatist 
ought not to subject himself to the actors, nor ought 
he to limit what he conceives to the capacity of the 
special performers he may have in view.. But he must 
always take account of them and keep them in mind, 
because the art of the drama is a twofold art, and be- 
cause the playwright and the players must work in 
unison, ever aiding each other because they always 
depend on each other. The dramatist is quite as help- 
less without the actors as the actors are without the 
dramatist. Without them, the playwright has only the 
barren appeal to posterity, which is certain never to 
reach its ears. Without him, the performers can be 
seen only in old plays, of which the public is sure to 
tire, sooner or later. 

This ideal harmony of these partners in art has not 
always been obtained, since both parties to the alliance 


are likely to be endowed with the occasional irritabilily 
and with the swift susceptibility of the artistic tempera- 
ment. But the best results have been achieved by both 
when they have labored together loyally. It is without 
surprise, therefore, that we find it recorded that Sopho- 
cles, the foremost of Greek tragic dramatists, the su- 
preme artist of a most artistic race, was believed to 
have composed his chief characters for some one par- 
ticular actor, although we do not now know the name 
of this special performer, whose histrionic gifts stimu- 
lated the dramatui^ic energy of the austere poet. In 
more than one of the surviving plays of Sophocles, 
we can easily discover what would nowadays be called 
a " star-part/' a single character who has always the 
center of the action and in whose fate the interest of 
the story culminates. 

It is a matter of inference, rather than of actual record, 
that Shakspere kept in mind the histrionic capacity 
of the several leading performers of the company of 
which he was himself a member, and for which all his 
plays were composed. Apparently, the greatest of dra- 
matic poets was not himself an actor of abundant 
native endowment, however keen might be his insight 
into the principles of the histrionic art. So far as we 
know, he confined his efforts to parts for which in- 
telligence, dignity, and delivery were sufficient equip- 
ment, — the Ghost in "Hamlet," old Adam in "As 
You Like It, "and the elder Knowell in "Every Man 
in his Humor." In other words, the greatest of dra- 
matic poets was probably as an actor of only respect- 
able rank ; and he seems to have yielded the chief char- 
acters even in his own plays to the more gifted of his 
fellow-players. It was not for his own acting that he 


wrote "Hamlet," but for Burbage's; and Burbage cre- 
ated the most of the star-parts in Shakspere's pieces. 

A close scrutiny of Shakspere's text will enable us 
to make more than one inference about the actors with 
whom he was associated and for whom he wrote his 
comedies and his tragedies. It has been pointed out 
how the gauntness of Holofernes is evidence that there 
was a lean actor in the company, — the same performer 
probably who was later to play the envious Casca. 
There were no actresses in the Shaksperian theaters, 
as there had been none in the mysteries and moralities 
which had preceded the Elizabethan drama and which 
had made it possible. All the women's parts were per- 
formed by boy-actors, difficult as this fact may be to 
reconcile with the variety and subtlety of the female 
characters in Shakspere's dramas and with their essen- 
tial womanliness and abundant femininity. It has 
been said that even if there are few heroes in Shak- 
spere's plays, there are many heroines ; and yet all these 
heroines sprang into life for the acting of one or another 
of the smooth-faced boys who were then employed by 
the associated actor-managers. Only a little while be- 
fore Shakspere composed the gloomy group of come- 
dies, so-called, of which "Measure for Measure" and 
"All 's Well that Ends Well" are the most significant, 
he had produced a swift succession of gay and joyous 
romantic-comedies, "As You Like It" and "Twelfth 
Night," the "Merchant of Venice" and "Much Ado 
about Nothing." Perhaps we may ascribe the exist- 
ence of the delightful heroines of these witty and pa- 
thetic pieces, Rosalind and Viola, Portia and Beatrice, 
to Shakspere's appreciation of the unusual ability of 
some clean-shaven lad to personate these charming 


maidens, sparkling yet tender, willing to be wooed and 
yet coy. 

In our modem theaters, when these parts are en- 
trusted to actresses, there is an obvious lack of plausi- 
bility in the performance as soon as the girls try to 
pass themselves off as boys. A spectator to-day cannot 
help wondering how it is that Orlando fails to see that 
the self-styled Ganymede is a woman, and how it is that 
Portia was able to fool the Duke into a belief that she 
was a lawyer of the sterner sex. In Shakspere's time, 
this difficulty did not exist. Then a boy impersonating 
a girl could disguise himself as a boy without too great 
a strain upon the spectators' willingness to accept fic- 
tion for fact. Yet even in Shakspere's time, there may 
have been a puzzling complexity in the performance 
of "As You Like It," when a boy-actor played the 
part of a girl who gave herself out for a lad, and who 
then as a lad was willing to let Orlando pretend that 
she was his lady-love. 


Many critics have expressed wonder at the violence 
and coarseness of "Titus Andronicus " ; and they have 
been unable to reconcile these crudities with the gentler 
spirit and loftier view of life revealed in the later trage- 
dies. Here again an explanation may be found in a 
consideration of the playwright's relation to the players. 
The "Titus Andronicus," which we have in Shak- 
spere'3 works, is now believed to be his revision or 
amalgamation of two earlier dramas dealing with the 
same subject, both of which had been often performed, 
and both of which had then come into the control of 
the company of actors to which Shakspere belonged. 


He was at that time only a beginner, with none of the 
authority which is the result of a series of successes. 
He was but a prentice playwright, whose task it was 
to patch up old pieces and to make them more worthy 
of performance by his comrades. Even if he had re- 
volted against the inartistic vulgarity of the earlier 
tragedies-of-blood which he had to make over, even 
if he had wished to modify and to soften their harsh 
and repellent features to accord with his own finer 
taste, he would not have been permitted to do so, be- 
cause the associated actors who were his employers 
would not have accepted his new version, if they found 
it shorn of the bombast and of the brutal extravagance 
which characterized the two old plays and which gave 
the performers occasions for overacting, the effect of 
which had been tested by long usage. Perhaps one rea- 
son for the rant and the violence that strikes us in the 
plays of Shakspere's immediate predecessor, Marlowe, 
especially in his" Jew of Malta" and in his "Tam- 
burlaine," is that he wrote the chief parts in these 
pieces for Alleyne, a most robustious actor, who was 
nearly seven feet in height and who possessed a pro- 
portionate physical energy. 

Charles Lamb, who had a humorous relish for para- 
dox, once ventured to suggest that Shakspere's plays 
can be appreciated better in the study than on the 
stage. He held that it was a disadvantage to have 
Hamlet, for example, forever associated with the per- 
son of John Philip Kemble. Now, it may be admitted 
at once that there are many things in Shakspere's plays 
which we can best taste as we study them reverently, 
book in hand. But there are also many things which 
aflfect us far more powerfully in the theater than in the 


library, — and these are the essentially dramatic things. 
These are the things which we can be sure that ShaJc- 
spere meant us to feel when we are witnessing his plays. 
He wrote them to be acted ; and it is only when we see 
them performed that we are enabled to see them as 
their author intended us to see them. It is to be noted 
also that Lamb did not follow his own advice ; he was 
a most assiduous theatergoer, as almost every essay of 
his testifies. We shall do better if we are guided rather 
by his practice than by his precept. Indeed, one of the 
first rules which every student of the drama ought to 
lay down for himself is not to neglect any opportunity 
to see any play of Shakspere's which may happen to 
be announced, even if the performance does not pro- 
mise to be entirely adequate. Nothing furnishes the 
memory more satisfactorily than a collection of Shak- 
sperian performances. 

Moliere, whose name must always be linked with 
those of Sophocles and Shakspere, was the most ac- 
complished comic actor of his day ; and, of course, he 
devised a leading character in all his comedies for his 
own acting. To certain of these characters he gave his 
own physical characteristics, his cough, for example, 
just as he gave lameness to other characters intended 
for the acting of his lame brother-in-law, Bejart. He 
wrote the gay serving-maid in the "Bourgeois Gen- 
tilhomme" to utilize at once the infectious laughter of 
Mile. Beauval, who had only recently joined his com- 
pany. For his own wife, the fascinating Armande 
Bejart, he composed a succession of brilliant parts, 
varied and veracious. Chief among the characters he 
wrote for her are the charming Elmire in "Tartuflfe" 
and the witty Celimene in the " Misanthrope." And 


the tragic heroines of MoHere's younger contemporary, 
Racine, were the result of his intimate knowledge of the 
power of personation possessed by Mile. Champmesle. 


Accepting the fact that Sophocles and Shakspere, 
Moliere and Racine, and all the chief dramatists in the 
long history of the theater, have always composed their 
plays with a keen appreciation of the histrionic ability 
of the actors by whom their pieces were to be performed, 
there is interest and profit in an inquiry as to the exact 
measure of the influence which the actors may have 
exerted upon the authors. And here we can find help 
in considering the performers of our own time, since 
the histrionic temperament as such probably varies 
very little with the lapse of centuries. The actor is 
apparently to-day the same kind of human being that 
he was yesterday and the day before yesterday. In his 
attitude toward his own calling, toward the exercise 
of his own art, Roscius probably was not unlike Gar- 
rick and Coquelin. What they wanted, each of them, 
was a play in which he had a good part, — and in his 
eyes a good part was one in which he could act to his 
heart's content. A good part is one in which the actor 
has something to do or somebody to personate. He 
demands action and character, — and these are pre- 
cisely the qualities which the playgoer also demands. 

Therefore, the influence of the performers on the play- 
wright has been wholesome in so far as their desire for 
good parts has tended to stiffen the dramatic action, 
to intensify the passionate climax of the play. And this 
pressure of the actors on the author has tended also 
to persuade the poet to a larger and a deeper reproduc- 


tion of human nature, so that he could provide the 
performers with characters that richly rewarded their 
faculty of impersonating creatures wholly unlike them- 
selves. No doubt, the playwright has not infrequently 
yielded too much to the wishes of the players and has 
been satisfied merely to compose a vehicle for the self- 
exhibition of the actors. Of course, the author can 
claim no mercy if he is willing to subordinate himself 
wholly to the actor and to put together what is but lit- 
tle better than a framework for the display of some 
special actor's tricks. This is what Sardou did not dis- 
dain to do more than once for Mme. Sarah-Bernhardt, 
surrendering the proper independence of his art so that 
she could show off all the artificialities of hers. " Fe- 
dora," for example, was so tightly adjusted to the clever- 
ness of the French performer that it lost the most of 
its effect when acted by Signora Duse, because the 
Italian actress found in its tricky ingenuity no oppor- 
tunity for the poignant veracity she revealed in a sim- 
pler and sincerer study from life, like Verga's " Caval- 
leria Rusticana." 

Yet an adroit and self-respecting dramatic poet can 
get the utmost out of the varied powers of an actor of 
versatile genius without any enfeebling complaisance 
and without any unworthy self-surrender. And if 
proof of this assertion were needed, it could be found 
in "Cyrano de Bergerac." It is not too much to say 
that if the masterpiece of M. Rostand had never been 
acted or published and if it were suddenly to be dis- 
covered after its author's death, the general opinion 
would then be that it was a most ingenious specimen 
of the dramatic poem, probably composed without any 
expectation that it could ever be performed, since the 


central figure was so various and so many-sided, now 
grotesque, and then lyric, now broadly humorous, and 
then loftily heroic, that the author could never have 
hoped to find any actor multifarious enough to imper- 
sonate the character and to reveal its contrasting as- 
pects. But we happen to know that this brilliant play 
was written especially for a brilliant actor, and that it 
was put together with an eye single to his extraordinary 
range of personation. Coquelin was an incomparable 
comedian, who had played countless parts, some lyric 
and heroic, some humorous and grotesque. He had a 
variety so marvelous that "he seemed to be not one 
but all mankind's epitome." There was in " Cyrano 
de Bergerac" no demand made on the actor that 
Coquelin had not already met in some one of the hun- 
dred dramas he had appeared in; and many of the 
separate eflFects he had achieved in his best parts were 
carefullv combined in this one character. There was 
never a more skilful example of theatrical tailoring 
than M. Rostand's cutting and fitting of his poetic 
fabric to the exact size and shape of Coquelin's his- 
trionic accomplishments, yet this did not in any way 
detract from the originality and the charm of the play 
itself. Although it is a fact that " Cyrano de Bergerac " 
is what it is solely because Coquelin was what he was, 
nevertheless the play was performed by many other 
actors; it was translated into half a dozen diflFerent 
languages ; it was read with delight by all who appre- 
ciate pointed and polished verse; it lost nothing of its 
literary value from the circumstance that it had its 
origin in the poet's desire to write a great part for a 
great actor. Other comedians may attempt to act 
Cyrano — indeed, a score of other actors have been 


tempted to do so; but Coquelin's performance of the 
part remains inimitable and unapproachable. He was 
the best Cyrano because Cyrano was measured to fit 
him. There is excellent excuse for the French phrase 
which declared that the actor who first plays a part 
" creates the character." This, at least, is what Coquelin 
did with Cyrano. 

The knowledge we chance to possess that M. Ros- 
tand composed this play specially for Coquelin will 
explain the final act, which puzzled not a few critics. 
Why does the hero die at the end of the play ? Why 
should he die ? The piece is called a " heroic-comedy," 
and we do not expect to have a comedy end with a 
death-scene. On the other hand, there is no real rea- 
son why Cyrano should not die, — that is to say, there 
is no logical and necessary conclusion of the highly 
artificial story which would require the hero either to 
pass away in the fifth act or to survive to fight again 
some other day. This being the case, it is easy to see 
why M. Rostand chose to let the spectators behold 
the last moments of his hero. It gave him as fine a 
finish as any other possible termination; it enabled 
him to touch lightly the chords of pathos; and, above 
all — it supplied Coquelin with a death-scene, more 
or less of a novelty even for that marvelous comedian, 
who may often have envied Mme. Sarah-Bernhardt 
the many death-scenes which she has presented and 
which have permitted her to draw easily upon the 
tears of all who heard her dying speech and confes- 

Perhaps a few of those who have been surprised that 
this heroic-comedy should end as sadly as a tragedy, 
may have wondered also why the old soldier Flambeau 


was allowed to occupy a disproportionate place in M. 
Rostand's other poetic drama, the "Aiglon," wherein 
he was not the chief figure, — with the chief figure of 
which, indeed, his connection seems almost episodic. 
Could not the story of the masterful Napoleon's weak- 
ling son have been set forth without dragging in this 
ancient and loquacious warrior? Here, again, the 
explanation is easy when we are aware that Flambeau, 
although not originally acted in Paris by Coquelin, 
was actually written for him ; and that the origin of the 
play is to be found in the fact that the actor had ex- 
pressed to the poet his desire to appear as one of the 
faithful old guard of the great Emperor. The stalwart 
figure of the veteran, loyal to his master's memory, 
thus suggested by Coquelin, fascinated M.Rostand; 
but when the poet sought for a plot in which to set this 
character to work, he was led irresistibly to the feebler 
form of the puny King of Rome, the impotent heir of 
a mighty name. As the playwright worked out his 
story in scenes and acts, he found the princeling taking 
the center of the stage and the old soldier becoming 
inevitably a subordinate character, full of color, no 
doubt, and very useful in building up the situations 
of the play, but no longer the focus of interest. 

When we peruse Legouve's "Memories of Sixty 
Years," we learn how "Adrienne Lecouvreur" came 
to be composed especially for Rachel, and we see why 
the heroine does not appear in the opening act of the 
play to which she gives her name, and why she first 
comes in view clad in the costume of one of Racifte's 
characters. And in the same interesting and instruc- 


tive reminiscences, M. Legouve also records how he 
wrote a certain speech in his earlier piece, " Louise de 
Lignerolles," half a dozen times because Mile. Mars 
insisted that it was not what it ought to be, until finally 
she told him that what she wanted was something like 
" la-la-la — la." That is to say, her histrionic instinct 
made her feel the emotional rhythm of the proper 
speech for the character at that moment in the play; 
and Legouve, having full confidence in her judgment, 
promptly set fit words to the tune she had indicated. 
Every other dramatist could recall instances of the 
unpremeditated effects he has achieved, now and again, 
by thus accepting the hints of his actors. Many a great 
drama is the greater because of practical suggestions 
made by the actors, just as many a great drama has 
been due to the desire of the poet to profit by the rich 
gift of some contemporary performer. There is char- 
acteristic shrewdness in a remark which Augier once 
made to the comedian Regnier: "My experience has 
taught me that an actor deprives me of all that he does 
not add to the part I have written." 

We may read in the life of Bulwer-Lytton how he 
listened to the advice of Macready and made over 
both the " Lady of Lyons " and " Richelieu " in accord- 
ance with the valuable advice which the actor gave 
him. So Mr. Bram Stoker has told us how Henry 
Irving felt that Tennyson's " Becket," in the form in 
which the poet had published it, was not likely to suc- 
ceed as a play, although it contained the superb figure 
of the martyred Cardinal which the actor-manager was 
longing to personate. Finally, Irving saw the practi- 
cability of a few rather radical alterations, the suppres- 
sion of a scene here, and the writing of a new speech 


or two there. With fear and trembling, he took these 
suggestions to Tennyson; and the poet, longing for 
success on the stage, accepted them gladly, writing 
at once the added lines that the actor wanted and giv- 
ing permission for the omissions and transpositions 
that Irving believed to be necessary. 

Here we find the actor rising almost to the level of 
the poet's collaborator ; and it would be easy to collect 
many another illustration of this harmonious partner- 
ship between the creative and the interpretative artists. 
The plot of "Gringoire," Banville's charming little 
play, was changed for the better by the author in con- 
sequence of suggestions from Coquelin, who created 
the part of the starving poet. The ingenious turn of 
the story toward the end of the piece was the invention 
of the comedian ; and when he proposed this to the 
author, Banville asked scornfully: "Do you want me 
to write a play like Scribe?" Coquelin laughed and 
replied that this was just what he did want. " Very 
well, then," said Banville, smiling in his turn, " that is 
just what I will do!" 

Not only does the wise dramatist profit by every 
available suggestion of the actors, and not only does 
he take advantage of the special capabilities of the per- 
formers he may have in mind for this part or that, he 
IS also moved sometimes to refrain from putting into 
his play scenes which are not likely to be properly 
acted by the special comedians whom he expects to 
personate certain characters. Sheridan was the man- 
ager of Drury Lane when he brought out his own 
"School for Scandal." Every part in that glittering 
comedy was written particularly for the performers 
who first played it ; and so admirably was it then per- 


formed as a whole that Charles Lamb thought it some 
compensation for growing old that he had been bom 
early enough to see the "School for Scandal" in its 
glory. Indeed, the several performers were so closely 
fitted that when a friend asked the author-manager 
why his comedy did not contain a love-scene for the 
two characters whose marriage brings it to an end, 
Sheridan was ready with the obvious answer that 
Smith and Miss Hopkins could not make love. Now, 
Smith was the original Charles Surface, and Maria was 
first acted by Miss Priscilla Hopkins (afterward the 
wife of John Philip Kemble). 

Evidence of this adjustment of the story of a play 
to the limitations of the performers for whom it was 
intended, can be found abundantly in certain of the 
comedies of John Lyly, written for the Children of 
Paul's, one of the companies of boy-actors in vogue 
in the earlier days of Queen Elizabeth. In these pol- 
ished pieces of suave rhetoric and artificial sentiment, 
there is nothing of the terror and of the horror which 
characterized many of the contemporary plays written 
for the full-grown performers of the regular theaters. 
There is no rude power, no rant, no bombast; all is 
decorous, and everything is suppressed which is likely 
to be too exacting for their youthful inexperience of life. 

And this same artful adaptation of a plot to the 
performers for whose use it was devised can be seen 
also in the earliest of English comedies that has come 
down to us, "Ralph Roister Doister," written by 
Udall, the master of Eton, for performance by his own 
pupils. For all its imitation of Plautus in its external 
form, this English comic play smacks of the soil ; and 
it has an obvious likeness — in its robust fun, in its 


frequent horse-play, and in its occasional snatches of 
song — to the nondescript pieces which undergradu- 
ates undertake for their own pleasure to-day. " Ralph 
Roister Bolster" is just the sort of bold and hearty 
farce which mature schoolboys could perform with 
zest and with unfailing effect. And its successive epi- 
sodes made no demands upon the original performers 
to which they were not likely to be equal. In fact, a 
careful examination of this unpretending little play 
seems to suggest that the Eton schoolmaster had a 
premonition of the truth which the later Scribe once 
expressed to Legouve. The wily French playwright 
declared that dramatists did well to study the qualities 
of the contemporary actors, but that there was a more 
constant advantage in availing one's self also of the 
defects of these performers, — " since their merits 
might abandon them, whereas their faults would never 
leave them.*' 

This may have been said more or less in jest; and 
yet \t has a kernel of truth. The playwright needs to 
take stock of his performers, and if he can find his 
advantage in utilizing their failings, so much the better 
for him, — although, of course, it is their real endow- 
ment that he will utilize the more often. And he may 
gain by considering special actors while he is compos- 
ing his play, even if he may not actually expect that 
they will be employed in the performance of that piece. 
Although these special actors may be unavailable, per- 
haps because they are engaged elsewhere or because 
they have retired from the stage, the dramatist may 
find a stimulus to his invention, if not to his imagina- 
tion, in keeping in mind the personality of these per- 
formers while he is composing his play. 


In fact, the more closely we study the history of 
dramatic literature, and the more sharply we analyze 
the structure of the masterpieces of the drama, the 
more firmly we become convinced that the dramatic 
poets of every age and of every race have never failed 
to weigh scrupulously the gifts, the deficiencies, and the 
special qualities of the various performers upon whom 
they had to rely for the proper presentation of their 
plays to the public. And this has been for our pleasure 
as well as for their profit. Mme. de Sevigne accused 
Racine of '* writing plays for la Champmesle, and not 
for posterity." No doubt Racine was guilty of the 
charge; but a9 it has happened, the plays that fitted 
Mile, de Champmesle have succeeded also in retaining 
the admiration of posterity. They survive as the unex- 
celled masterpieces of French tragedy. 



It is obvious that the general spectacle presented by the interior 
of a Greek theater during the representation of a drama must have 
been quite unlike anything we are accustomed to in modern times. 
The open-air buildings, the performance in broad daylight, the vast 
crowds of spectators, the chorus grouped together in the center — 
all these characteristics of a Gred^ theatrical exhibition must have 
combined to produce a scene to which there is no exact parallel at 
the present day. This fact should be kept clearly in view. — A. £. 
Haigh, The Attic Theater, 

In every period when the literature of any language 
has been characterized by abundant dramatic produc- 
tivity, the playwright will be found to have composed 
his plays in accordance with the conditions of the 
actual theater of his own time. He may not have liked 
these conditions and he may have believed that they 
could be bettered ; but he has always begun by accept- 
ing them, whatever they might be. He has done this 
necessarily and inevitably, whether he himself was 
truly a dramatic poet like Sophocles and Shakspere or 
merely an ingenious stage-craftsman like Kotzebue 
and Scribe. What the playwrights of every age have 
done instinctively and without hesitation, the histori- 
ans of literature are now beginning to perceive; and 
only a few of them have yet grasped the full significance 
of the fact that it is impossible justly to appreciate the 
art of the truly dramatic poet, Sophocles or Shakspere, 


Moliere or Ibsen, without a clear understanding of the 
chief circumstances of an actual performance in the 
particular theater for which the dramatist prepared 
his plays, and to the size and shape of which, and to 
the scenic appliances of which, he had to adjust the 
construction of his story. 

We are now well aware that there have been many 
types of theater in different countries and at different 
times, most of them varying very widely from our snug 
modem playhouses. We all recognize that the im- 
mense outdoor theater of the Athenians was as unlike 
as possible to the smaller half-roofed cockpit of the 
Londoners under Elizabeth, and also to the long nar- 
row tennis-court of the Parisians under Louis XIV. 
But while these differences between the theaters of 
earlier periods may be a matter of common knowledge, 
we do not always apply our information when we under- 
take to discuss the dramaturgic skill of the playwrights 
of these several epochs. We must always keep in mind 
the extent to which the theater has often dictated to 
the author what he could put into his play and what 
he had to leave out, and how he had to present what he 
desired to set forth. We ought to give full weight to 
the pressure exerted on the playwright by the changing 
conditions of the playhouses of successive centuries, — 
by the size of the theater, for one thing, which may be 
so huge as to forbid the author's choice of any but 
broad and simple themes, — by the elaboration of 
heavy scenery, which may impose on him the duty of 
compacting his plot so that he will need few changes 
of place, — or by the improved modern modes of 
artificial illumination (candles first, then oil-lamps, 
after a while gas, and finally electricity), all of which 


have wrought in turn significant modifications of dra- 
maturgic method. For example, it is only as we come 
to a realizing sense of the influence exerted upon the 
art of the dramatist by the specific conditions of each 
of the special types of theater which have existed each 
in its own time and place, that we can measure the 
wisdom of Shakspere in rejecting the advice of Sidney 
to model his plays after those of the Greek dramatists ; 
and that we can gage also the unwisdom of Tennyson 
in taking Shakspere's histories as the pattern of his 
own poetic dramas, composed centuries later, when 
the conditions of the English theater had entirely 

The critics of any particular period of the drama 
have not always been familiar with the conditions 
existing during other periods. The historians of Greek 
literature are acquainted with our modern playhouses 
and they are now studying the ruins of the theaters 
still accessible in Greece and in the Grecian colonies; 
but they have paid little attention to the methods of 
presenting plays in the Middle Ages, at first in the 
churches, and later, on platforms in the market-places. 
The historians of English literature have scarcely yet 
attained to a fairly clear perception of the way in which 
plays were acted under the Tudors, and they have not 
yet seized the full significance of the changes which 
resulted during the Restoration from the introduction 
of painted scenery and of artificial light. The schol- 
ars who knew only one manifestation of the drama 
have rarely possessed the perspective which would 
be supplied to them by a knowledge of other aspects 
in the other periods when the drama was flourishing. 
There is a striking unity in the drama as we trace its 


development down through the ages ; its essential prin- 
ciples are always the same, since the aim of the real 
dramatist has varied little, whether he was a Greek 
of old, a Frenchman of the seventeenth century or a 
Scandinavian of the nineteenth. And his methods were 
affected by traditions still surviving from the play- 
houses of an earlier generation. These traditions the 
dramatist profits by even if they are no longer in exact 
accord with the actual conditions of the theater for 
which he is writing; and so we find the Elizabethan 
playwrights making use of the two doors on opposite 
sides of the stage to indicate two wholly distinct places, 
— a device which is apparently a survival from the 
several "mansions" of the French miracle-plays. In 
fact, it is impossible really to understand the drama- 
turgic methods in vogue at any particular period with- 
out taking into consideration the circumstances of per- 
formance at least half a century earlier. 

No one, it may be noted, has undertaken to trace 
the slow development of the art of the scene-painter, 
distinguishing sharply between true scene-painting as 
we now know it, a realistic perspective intended to re- 
produce the place itself, and that very different thing, 
the building up in miniature of the house or of a part 
of the house (such as we find in the Middle Ages and 
again in the Italian comedy-of-masks) , which is the 
work of carpenters completed by the work of house- 
painters. No one has collected the many references 
which make it plain that properties of all sorts — 
altars, thrones, arbors, etc. — were in use long before 
there was any attempt at true scene-painting. And no 
one has ever made a collection of plans of theaters, 
all drawn to the same scale, so that we could see at a 


glance how immense was the theater of Dionysus at 
Athens and how small the tennis-court wherein Molifere 
acted. With the aid of a collection of these plans and 
with the collateral information now available, we could 
follow the changes in the method of performance from 
Sophocles to Ibsen, and we should be led to one inter- 
esting conclusion, — that instead of there being only 
two types of theater, as is often assumed, the ancient 
and the modern, there are in reality many, of which 
the medieval is not the least important. 

We should be induced to acknowledge that the the- 
ater in England for which Marlowe and Shakspere and 
Jonson wrote, and the theater in Spain for which Lope 
de Vega and Calderon wrote, were neither of them really 
modern; and they were both medieval in their methods 
or at least semi-medieval. We should be made to see 
that Moliere is apparently the earliest of the modems, 
in that his plays now need no readjustment, no editing, 
no transposing of any kind, to fit them for the play- 
houses of to-day. And we should discover that a very 
striking change in the practices of the playwrights was 
brought about in the second half of the nineteenth cen- 
tury, when the stage was at last abundantly lighted in 
every part by electricity and when the curving bow of 
the footlights was cut back to the curtain, which there- 
after rose and fell inside a picture-frame. 



The difference between the playhouse in which we 
can to-day see one of Mr. Clyde Fitch's plays and the 
playhouse in which Sheridan's comedies were originally 
given, is greater than the difference between Sheridan's 
Drury Lane and the house for which Congreve wrote 


and in which Betterton acted. And in its turn, this 
Restoration playhouse was very unlike the Elizabethan 
theater for which Shakspere wrote and in which Bur- 
bage acted. Even more apparent is the difference 
between the theater of Dionysus at Athens and the 
Roman theater at Orange, in the south of France. 
These several theaters, ancient and modern, are sharply 
distinguished from one another by their size, by their 
shape, by their method of illumination, by the absence 
or presence of real scenery, and also by the arrange- 
ment of the seats for the spectators ; and as we study 
these successive changes, we are confirmed in the con- 
viction that the physical conditions of the playhouse 
must always have exerted a powerful influence upon 
the dramatic poets who followed each other down 
through the centuries. 

The theater of Dionysus at Athens is accepted as 
the earliest of the great Greek theaters, yet it is so well 
preserved that it is possible for a traveler now to sit 
on its marble benches and look down into the orchestra 
where the chorus circled with solemn chant about the 
altar of the god in whose honor the drama had come 
into being. ^ For a long time, the primitive Greek plays 
were acted in the market-place, and the spectators sat 
on temporary benches. After one of these rows of 
seats had broken down, a space was leveled at the foot 
of the Acropolis, and the spectators grouped them- 
selves on the hollow hillside above. In time, the slope 
was rounded out, and from the level space where the 
actors stood, tiers of marble seats rose high up the 
shoulders of the mountain. The orchestra itself was 
paved ; and some kind of low structure must have been 

^ See illustration facing page 74. 


erected behind the semi-circular space of the orchestra 
to serve as a background for the movements of the 
actors and for the evolutions of the chorus. It is gen- 
erally admitted now that there was no elevated stage 
in the Attic theater; and the acting took place in the 
orchestra itself, the semi-circular level space which 
bowed out into the curving tiers of seats. It is coming 
to be admitted also that there was no scenery, although 
there may have been properties. Of course, the author 
was free to avail himself of the doors and of the roof 
of the low structure which shut in the orchestra, and 
which probably served also for a dressing-room for all 
those who took part in the performance. 

The arc of the semi-circle, where this structure 
stood, was seventy-two feet long; and the farthest 
point of the prolonged semi-circle was about the same 
distance away. And above this level space, there rose 
nearly eighty tiers of seats. It has been asserted that 
more than twenty thousand spectators could be present 
at a performance. As we sit on those benches to-day, 
and glance down to the orchestra and see how small a 
single figure looks so far away, and how impossible it 
is to perceive any play of feature, we are not surprised 
that the Greek actors were raised on lofty boots and 
wore masks that towered above their heads, increasing 
their apparent stature. We recognize that under such 
circumstances the dramatist was wise to avoid all acts 
of physical violence impossible to performers thus 
accoutered. We perceive that he was well advised 
when he preferred a plot already familiar to his spec- 
tators, so that they would not lose the thread of the 
story, even if a sudden gust of wind from the ^gean 
might now and again wrap the floating draperies about 


the heads of the performers and for a moment deprive 
the audience of the spoken words. We can approve 
also his practical shrewdness in choosing a theme not 
only already known in its outline, but also possessing 
a bold simplicity, which demanded a massive treatment. 
We can understand more clearly the function of the 
chorus, which supplied a restful lyrical variety, and 
also that spectacular element which appeals to the eye 
and which seems to be required to hold the attention 
of an immense gathering in the open air. And we end 
by seeing the obvious likeness which exists between 
one of the old Greek tragedies and one of our broader 
modern music-dramas of the Wagnerian type, if this 
should be performed out-of-doors. 

In building their playhouses, as in most of their 
other artistic endeavors, the Romans followed in the 
footsteps of tjie Athenians.^ They modified the Greek 
theater to suit their own needs. Giving up the seats 
on the curving hillside which enabled the audience to 
look down on the actors, they filled the orchestra with 
benches, and they were therefore forced to raise up a 
stage so that the spectators could see the performers. 
This stage wa« a long and narrow shelf; and it had 
behind it a high wall, pierced with doors and richly 
decorated with columns and statues. This stately piece 
of ornate architecture was the unchanging background 
for every play ; and its doors were utilized as the plot 
might demands In the theater at Orange in the south 
of France, the stage was about one hundred and ninety 
feet wide. The radius of the auditorium was more 
than one hundred and leighty feet. There was accom- 
modation for six thousand spectators. Although this 

* See illustration facing page 140. 


theater at Orange is a little late, the earlier Roman 
playhouses were not unlike it in size and in shape. 

Such a theater seems to be better suited for panto- 
mime and for the feats of acrobats than for a drama 
dealing truthfully with the pathos and the humor of 
life. Perhaps we can catch a glimpse of one reason 
why the delicately polished comedies of Terence failed 
to please his contemporaries when they were performed. 
The style of that accomplished man of letters could 
hardly be expected to convey much pleasure to the 
audience collected in a very large theater of this type. 
The Comedie-Fran9aise, on one of its visits to Orange, 
ventured to perform there a neo-Greek playlet, the 
"Ilote" of M. Paul Ferrier; but although this had 
been successful in Paris at the Theatre Fran9ais, it 
was found to evaporate into immediate insignificance 
in the vast space of the old Roman theater. On the 
other hand, the "CEdipus" of Sophocles,ahd one or two 
other French versions of massively planned Greek 
tragedies, were really more effective when performed at 
Orange than they ever had been in Paris, as though 
they demanded a larger frame than any modern theater 
could provide. 

Gaston Boissier, who was not only one of the most 
learned students of Latin literature but also one of the 
acutest of critics, visited the substantial ruin at Orange 
and also most of the other surviving Roman theaters. 
As a result of these investigations, he declared that 
when he sought to evoke a vision of the spacious Latin 
playhouse and to reconstruct a mental image of it as it 
must have been in the full splendor of the imperial 
period, he believed that he was enabled thereby better 
to understand the pieces which were performed in 


these stately edifices. "No doubt, this theater was 
made for these plays, but they were also made for this 
theater; they were instinctively accommodated and 
appropriated to the place where they were to be repre- 
sented. The actual circumstances of their performance 
imposed on them certain necessities, which they had 
to accept and which in time erected themselves into 
rules. It would be easy to prove that many of their 
qualities and of their defects, for which subtle expla- 
nations have been sought, have, in fact, no other origin 
than this obligation of the dramatist to conform to the 
conditions of performance in the only type of theater 
with which the Latin dramatists were familiar." And 
the shrewd Frenchman then pointed out the skill with 
which the artful Plautus " solved the problem of getting 
himself listened to (in a vast uncovered space) by in- 
attentive and noisy spectators, who had at bottom little 
real liking for the entertainment which was offered to 



In the Middle Ages, the tradition of the Greek the- 
ater, and even that of the Roman, seems to have been 
lost ; and we find a new dramatic form evolved spon- 
taneously out of the ritual of the church. Just as the 
Ara Coeli in Rome still exhibits at Christmas a wax- 
work reproduction of the infant Jesus cradled in the 
rude manger of the inn, so the medieval priests put 
into dialogue and presented in action other episodes 
of the Birth and also of the Resurrection. Choristers, 
with shepherd's crooks in their hands, came in by the 
eastern portal and advanced through the congrega- 
tion, singing the glad tidings, until they drew near to 
■ the manger within the chancel, in front of which they 


might meet other officials of the church, representing 
the Three Wise Men. Later, a place apart was found for 
Herod and his soldiers ; and other places, here and there, 
in the vast cathedral, were assigned to other actors in 
other episodes of Christ's career, — the Temple, for 
one, and, for another, the house of the High Priest. 

These several places were called " stations." When 
the swollen mystery was turned out of the cathedral, 
and when its presentation was undertaken by laymen, 
the traditions established in the church were carefully 
preserved with only the necessary modifications. In 
one manuscript of a mystery acted in Valenciennes in 
1547, there is a miniature of the stage on which it was 
acted ; and from this picture a model has been made, 
which gives us a good idea of a medieval performance 
in France.^ The stage was a shallow platform about 
one hundred and thirty feet in length ; and at the back, 
in a long line, were little houses representing each of 
the several stations, the various places required in the 
course of the drama. At the extreme right of the spec- 
tators is Heaven, raised high on pillars; and at the ex- 
treme left is Hell-mouth. Ranged between were the 
Inn, the Temple, the House of the High Priest, and the 
other necessary " mansions " (as the French termed the 
stations) , used only when they were called for by the spe- 
cial episodes of the story, the rest of the acting taking 
place anywhere on the stage, which was accepted as a 
neutral ground whereon anything might be represented. 

In England, instead of massing the stations at tlie 
back of a long stage, the more general practice was to 
set them up separately on wagons, like the floats of a 
Mardi Gras parade, and they were called "pageants." 

^ See illustration facing page 292. 


But even in England,- more or less of the acting was 
done, not on the floats, but in the street itself, in the 
.midst of the assembled spectators, just as had been 
the case when the earlier performances were given in 
the church itself. The street was then the neutral 
ground which might be supposed to be anywhere, — 
the shore in front of Noah's Ark, or the space between 
the palace of Herod and the house of the High Priest 
(these two dwellings being represented by two pageants 
brought forward at the same time). This is the tradi- 
tion which survived in the Elizabethan theater, where 
the acting took place also on a neutral ground. The 
stage was only a platform unincumbered by scenery, 
and it was therefore free to represent any needed place. 
At right and left, there might be two doors, which 
properly labelled, could stand, if need be, one for Asia 
and the other for Africa. 

Under the later Tudors, there sprang into being 
several companies of actors, patronized by the great 
nobles. They went about acting where they could, in 
palaces and in townhalls, on village greens and in the 
courtyards of inns. They carried a few properties, 
swords and scepters, and the like ; but they knew no- 
thing of scenery painted on frames. When at last they 
were forbidden to act in the inns of London, they went 
a little outside the city and put up playhouses of their 
own. They had no models to go by, for they knew as 
little about the theaters of Greece and Rome as their 
medieval predecessors had known. But they had found 
that the courtyards of inns, hollow rectangles girt with 
galleries, were suitable for their purpose ; and so it is 
that the playhouses that they built were very like the 
inn courtyards, — with the inn itself omitted. They 


put up a square or circular or oval structure, open to 
the sky, except over the galleries, and except also over 
the back part of the platform which jutted into the 
yard where the groundlings stood. 

We have the contract for the building of one of these 
playhouses, from which we learn that it was square, 
eighty feet on each side, and that the platform-stage 
was forty-three feet wide.* Two pieces of arras (or of 
cloth painted like tapestry) were hung from the gal- 
lery at the back where it crossed the platform. It was 
through these curtains, or through the two doors one 
on either side, that the actor made his entrances and 
his exits. The draperies could be looped back to re- 
veal a supposed cave or study, while the gallery above 
could serve as a balcony or as the outer wall of a castle, 
or merely as another place from which some character 
could oversee what took place on the stage below. The 
platform, although it had no painted scenery, was often 
enriched with properties, — thrones and arbors and 
wells, — as these might be called for by the story. 

This platform-stage was the neutral ground whereon 
any character might meet any other character without 
any question as to the exact spot where the meeting 
was supposed to take place. If the action of the play 
could be made clearer by particularizing the special 
place, then one of the characters was careful to say 
where they were supposed to be. But the spectators, 
some of them seated on stools on the stage itself and 
almost mingled with the actors, some of them standing 
in the yard on three sides of the platform, and some 
of them accommodated more comfortably in the pri- 
vate boxes of the galleries, asked no questions about 

^ See illustration facing page 238. 


place or time ; they wanted to see a story set forth in 
all its phases, and they cared nothing to know just 
where it was that any two characters were supposed 
to be at the very moment when the plot was thickening 
to a crisis. The playwright had the largest liberty of 
time and place, a larger license than was good for most 
of the Elizabethan dramatists, who did not compact 
their plots and who were amply satisfied if they suc- 
ceeded in interesting their unexacting audiences. And 
when we contrast this London theater for which Shak- 
spere wrote with the Athenian theater for which Sopho- 
cles wrote, we get a glimpse of the gulf that yawns be- 
tween the English drama and the Greek. We perceive 
one of the chief causes of the differences between them ; 
and we see at the same time how distinctly the form 
of each was conditioned by the circumstances of its 

In his ample and acute study of the " Tragic Drama 
of the Greeks," Haigh called attention to the fact that 
one of the chief characteristics of the Shaksperian 
drama, "the calm and tranquil manner in which the 
scenes were brought to a close, originated in the casual 
circumstance that the old English theater had no drop- 
scene ; the successive portions of a play were terminated, 
not by a curtain, but by the actors walking off the stage ; 
and for this reason it was impossible to finish up with 
a climax, as is now the invariable custom." And Haigh 
then remarked that the unity and simplicity of Greek 
tragedy were due to the force of circumstance, espe- 
cially to the influence exerted by the constant presence 
of the chorus, which prevented any change of place. 

In one respect, similarity in the circumstances of 
performance brought about a significant similarity of 


treatment in the Greek drama and in the Elizabethan. 
In the theater of Dionysus at Athens, as in the Globe 
Theater in London, there was no painted scenery, a 
theatrical adjunct as unknown to Shakspere as to 
Sophocles; and therefore the dramatic poet was not 
only tempted to put into his dialogue the description 
of any special place which he wished to call up in the 
minds of the spectators, he was actually compelled to 
do this, since he could accomplish his purpose in no 
other way. From the descriptions of the wild and lonely 
spot where the hero is fixed to the rock, given by one 
or another character in the earliest episodes of the 
" Prometheus Bound" of iEschylus, some commenta- 
tors have chosen to assume the existence of some sort 
of scenery which would suggest to the assembled mul- 
titude the gloom and horror of the spot. But this is 
an unwarranted inference, for if an adequate scenic 
representation of the place had been possible, the poet 
would not have felt called upon to put its description 
into the mouths of his characters. We do not find 
Ibsen or Rostand delaying the action of their dramas 
by any detailed description of the background which 
the spectators have now before their eyes. For the 
modern dramatic poet, any such digression would be 
an impertinent superfluity, since he knows that he can 
rely on the skilful scene-painters to represent pictori- 
ally the outward aspects of the place where the action 
passes. To the audience of iEschylus, as to the audi- 
ence of Shakspere, poetic description was not super- 
fluous or impertinent; it might be helpful. And we all 
know how freely Shakspere availed himself of this 
privilege of pictorial description, a privilege denied 
to the dramatic poet of to-day. 



In France, the strolling companies had become ac- 
customed, not to the courtyards of inns, but to tennis- 
courts ; and it is in an altered tennis-court that we find 
Moliere acting more than once. A tennis-court was 
a rectangle of a little less than one hundred feet long 
by a little less than*forty feet in width. It had galleries 
along the sides ; and it had a solid roof, and therefore 
it had to be lighted by candles. A stage was easily put 
up at one end, shut in by a proscenium arch, in which 
a curtain probably rolled up at the beginning of every* 
act. But here again we have spectators seated on the 
sides of the stage, not on separate stools, but on benches 
perpendicular to the footlights ; and again we find the 
actors surrounded by the audience as in England 
and in Greece. Behind these benches there might be 
painted scenery, although this was at first little more 
than a drop-cloth. The French dramatists, following 
Corneille's example, had accepted the so-called " unity 
of place" ; and in most of Moliere's plays, he confined 
all his acts to a single and unchanging scene. 

It is true that certain of his earlier plays, on the 
model of the Italian comedy-of-masks, were probably 
performed in a set representing a public square with 
houses (solidly built of wood) on each side, into the 
doors of which the characters went and from the win- 
dows of which they could lean out.^ This set was 
familiar to Moliere and to his audiences, as it was that 
used by the Italian comedians who played in the same 
theater on alternate nights. And thus we see that we 
need to know the earlier Italian conditions to under- 
stand how it was and why it was that Moliere was able 

^ See illustration facing page 172. 


to put on the stage the story of the " School for Hus- 
bands" — which, as Voltaire said, seems to be all in 
narrative, although it really is all in action. After a 
while, Moliere dispensed with the convenient devices 
of the Italians; but his set is always very simple, as 
had to be the case when the stage was encumbered with 
spectators. His characters always stand, except when 
chairs are absolutely necessary; and the action is 
adroitly arranged so as to be easily presented in a 
neutral ground, the narrow space between the specta- 
tors on the stage and the painted drop-scene which 
hung at the back. This is one reason why his plays 
can now be performed in any modern theater. They 
do not need elaborate scenery, although elaborate 
scenery can be used without doing them any harm. 

Moliere is in reality the earliest of modern drama- 
tists, since Shakspere's conditions were at least semi- 
medieval. Shakspere's courtyard playhouse was un- 
roofed and lighted only by the sun, and it had no 
scenery, whereas Moliere's tennis-court playhouse was 
roofed and artificially lighted and had painted scenery. 
And Moliere did not always act in a tennis-court play- 
house. He was allowed to move his company into the 
stately theater built by Richelieu on the model de- 
vised by the Italian architects after their study of the 
Tuins of the Roman theaters still surviving here and 
there in the peninsula.^ Palladio had even attempted 
at Vicenza what he believed to be a reproduction of a 
Roman theater. Under this Italian influence, the tennis- 
court playhouse was given up in France, as the court- 
yard playhouse was given up in England ; and every- 
where there were erected theaters externally not unlike 

^ See frontispiece. 



\ ' 


I i iiiiniiiiiiiii i i . \y • i ||iiiiiimniij | 


B, aadilaiiam ; C,enlTg 

i,ilage; B, orch'itra ; C, a 


was an apron of eighteen feet in front of the curtain. 
The scenery was very much what we are still permitted 
to see in the present performance of the earlier and 
simpler Italian operas, — that is to say, there was a 
drop-scene at the back, and there were on each side, 
and parallel with the drop, five or six "wings," repre- 
senting trees or columns or side walls. It was through 
the broad openings between these wings that the per- 
formers came out on the stage. The place of the action 
could be shifted any number of times by merely push- 
ing out half-scenes which met in the middle of the stage, 
and by sliding back the wings of the first set and sliding 
forward those of the second. 

This is the method of presentation which allowed 
Sheridan to put two or three difiFerent places into a 
single act of the "School for Scandal" and to display 
his characters first at Lady Sneerwell's and then at 
Lady Teazle's. It was the only method known to 
Shakspere's earliest editors, from Rowe and Theobald 
down; and in their ignorance of the more primitive 
Elizabethan theater, they assumed, naturally enough, 
that this was the method employed by Shakspere ; and 
so they divided the text of his plays into acts and scenes, 
whenever they thought they could detect any indica- 
tion of a change of place. This division into acts and 
scenes conveys a wholly false impression of Shakspere's 
real method. He conceived his play as a story told in 
action in a series of dialogues, many of which were held 
on the neutral ground that might be anywhere. Only 
where there was an advantage to be gained by particu- 
larizing the exact spot where the action lay, did Shak- 
spere take trouble to indicate it; and we may be sure 
that nothing was further from his thought than that 


his story should be cut up into the snippets of scenes 
that we find in the ordinary library editions of his 

Toward the end of the two hundred years which 
extended from the Restoration to the middle of the 
nineteenth century, the conditions of performance 
began to change. The art of the scene-painter became 
more elaborate; and the box-set was devised, whereby 
a room could be shown with its walls and its ceiling. 
The influence of the realistic movement of the middle 
of the nineteenth century imposed on the stage- 
manager the duty of making every scene character- 
istic of the period and of the people, and of relating 
the characters closely to their environment. The facil- 
ities for lighting were greatly improved, first by the 
introduction of gas, then by the invention of the lime- 
light, and finally by the perfecting of the electric light. 
It was found to be possible to illuminate the stage so 
as to show the expression on the actors' faces, even in 
the remoter corners of the stage. The apron behind 
the curving footlights was no longer necessary or even 
useful; and the stage was therefore cut back to the 
proscenium-arch, which became a frame for the stage- 
opening. Sir Henry Herkomer declared the modem 
practice when he asserted that " the proscenium should 
be to the stage-picture what the frame is to the easel- 
picture; it should separate the stage-picture from the 
surroundings, just as a painted picture should reach 
the frame." 

It is for this picture-frame stage that every dramatist 
of to-day is composing his plays ; and his methods are 
of necessity those of the picture-frame stage; just as 


the methods of the Elizabethan dramatic poet were of 
necessity those of the platform-stage. Probably we 
have not yet seen all the consequences of this striking 
change in the physical conditions of the theater; and 
probably we have not yet seized thie full significance 
of the transformation. For example, as the actor is no 
longer partly surrounded by the audience, as the per- 
formers are now withdrawn beyond a magic line of 
separation, the drama is certain hereafter to be less 
oratorical, less rhetorical, less bombastic; it is bound 
to be simpler in its language, more "natural." The 
long soliloquy, the confidential self-revelation, which 
was not out of place on the platform-stage, when a 
character was on the neutral ground that might be 
anywhere, and when he was so close to some of the 
spectators that he could put out his hand to touch 
them, — this is obviously inappropriate now when the 
actor is remote behind the proscenium, and seated on 
a real chair in what looks like a real room. 

The assertion has been made that the relinquishing 
of the soliloquy is to be ascribed to the influence of 
Ibsen; and it may be admitted that the Norwegian 
dramatist has been masterly in his adjustment of his 
methods to the conditions of the picture-frame stage. 
But we can shift the real responsibility for the banish- 
ing of the soliloquy a little further back ; it does not lie 
on Ibsen's shoulders, but on Edison's, — since it was 
an inevitable consequence of the incandescent bulb. 
Here we find the confirmation of a remark made by 
Ludovic Celler in his account of stage-conditions in 
France in the seventeenth century: "Artificial light 
creates a realm of convention, where an imitation is 
more easily accepted and where the eyes are less exact- 


ing; a compromise is attained between fact and fiction; 
and artificial light is what has most contributed to the 
progress of theatrical representation." 

Upon the picture-frame stage of the twentieth 
century, it is now possible to present, without any al- 
teration or transposition, the tragedies of Sophocles, 
composed in accordance with the conditions of the 
immense open-air theater of Athens, and also the 
comedies of Moli^re, composed in accordance with 
the conditions of the tennis-court playhouse of Paris. 
But the plays of Shakspere and of Sheridan can be put 
on this picture-frame stage of ours only after they have 
been rearranged, because Shakspere's were composed 
in accordance with the wholly different and absolutely 
incompatible conditions of the courtyard theater, and 
Sheridan's in accordance with the conditions of the 
post-Restoration playhouse. The picture-frame stage 
may be superior to its several predecessors, or it may be 
inferior to them, but it is at all events diflFerent from 
them; and it is the stage to which we are nowadays 
accustomed. If Shakspere and Sheridan were writing 
plays to-day, it is the picture-frame stage that they 
would write for ; and we should find them so arranging 
the episodes of their stories that these could be pre- 
sented with only a single set in each act, since the elabo- 
ration of our modern scenery makes it disadvantageous 
to attempt a change of place during the act. This is a 
technical difficulty to be vanquished, which could not 
fail to affect their method of treatment, and even to 
some extent their choice of theme. The technical pos- 
sibilities of any art at any moment must more or less 
determine and may more or less limit, not only how the 
artist shall express what he has to say, but also what 


he shall attempt to express. And it is only after we 
have analyzed these technical possibilities that we 
are really prepared to appreciate what the artist has 
actually accomplished. 

Attention must be called also to one other point, — 
to the fact that since the scene-painters have gained 
the skill needful for the satisfactory and more or less 
realistic representation of interiors and of exteriors, 
and especially since the invention of the electric light 
has made it possible to illuminate every corner of the 
stage on which these interiors and exteriors are set, the 
conditions of performance are now very similar through- 
out the civilized world, difiFering only in minor and 
unimportant details. A modern theater in Paris or in 
London is structurally very similar to a modern theater 
in New York or Melbourne, in Budapest or Buenos 
Ayres. This standardizing of the playhouse is a new 
thing in the history of the drama. There may have 
been a general resemblance between the conditions 
under which Shakspere worked and those under which 
Lope de Vega worked; but these early English and 
Spanish conditions are wholly unlike those of the 
Greek theater, of the Roman theater, of the French 
theater of MoHere's time, and of the English theater 
of Sheridan's day, which all varied widely from one 
another. Now at last, out of all these contending tradi- 
tions there has been evolved the type of theater best 
suited to the circumstances of our modern civiliza- 
tion; and the plays written to-day in any one of the 
modern languages can be transported anywhere and 
translated for performance without any structural 

The world-wide uniformity of theatrical conditions 


has brought with it a substantial identity of drama- 
turgic method. In its framework, a French play is now 
closely akin to a German play, an Italian play to an 
American. And as a result, the modern dramatist is 
enabled to make a cosmopolitan appeal, not possible 
to any of his predecessors in any of the earlier periods 
when the drama has most abundantly flourished. The 
plays of Ibsen, of Rostand, of d'Annunzio, and of 
Echegaray have passports permitting them to go any- 
where and everywhere. The method of any one of 
these dramatists is fundamentally the method of every 
other, however national and individual may be his 
material. And it is curious to note that this acceptance 
of a cosmopolitan form has been accompanied by a 
deeper appreciation of local color, of racial types of 
character, and of themes peculiar to the several races. 
The form is cosmopolitan, but the content is increas- 
ingly national. Ibsen is intensely Scandinavian; Verga 
is immitigably Italian ; Sir Arthur Pinero and Mr. 
Henry Arthur Jones are rigorously British ; Mr. Au- 
gustus Thomas and Mr. Clyde Fitch are thoroughly 
American ; and yet each of them, whatever his stock, 
has built his plays in accord with the same interna- 
tional formula, the only formula which is really satis- 
factory in our uniform theaters. 



Shakspere, we know, was a popular playwright. I mean not 
only that many of his plays were favorites in his day, but that he 
wrote, mainly at least, for the more popular kind of audience, and 
that within certain limits, he conformed to its tastes. — A. C. Brad- 
let, Oxford Lectures on Poetry. 

The shape of the special theater for which a dramatist 
has composed his plays, its size, its scenery, and its 
lighting, all exert an influence upon the playwright 
and combine to condition the form which his work 
must take, even if they do not more or less modify its 
content also. But the strongest pressure upon the con- 
tent of the drama of any special period and of any 
special place is that of the contemporary audience for 
whose delight it was originally devised. How any au- 
thor at any time can tell his story upon the stage de- 
pends upon the kind of stage he has in view ; but what 
kind of story he may tell depends upon the kind of 
people he wants to interest. As Dryden declared in one 
of his epilogues : — 

"They who have best succeeded on the stage 
Have still conformed their genius to the age." 

And this couplet of Dryden 's recalls the later lines of 
Johnson : — 

"The drama's laws the drama's patrons give, 
And we who live to please, must please to live. 




In other words, the dramatic poet is not independent 
of his audience, as the lyric poets may be, since he can ^ 
never be satisfied with mere self-expression. His work 
depends for its eflFect upon his hearers, and he has to 
take them into account, under penalty of blank failure. 
He must give them what they want, even if he gives 
them also what he wants. The author of a drama 
cannot labor for himself alone; he has to admit the 
spectators as his special partners. There is ever a tacit 
agreement, a quasi-contract between the playwright 
and the playgoers. As the ingenious and ingenuous 
Abbe d'Aubignac asserted, more than two centuries 
ago, when he was laying down laws for the drama : 
"We are not to forget here (and I think it one of the 
best Observations I have made upon this matter) that 
if the subject is not conformable to the Manners as well 
as the Opinions of the spectators, it will never take." 
And a later remark of his proved that he possessed the 
prime requisite of a dramatic critic, in that he had 
worked out his principles not merely in the library but 
also in the theater itself: "For if there be any Act 
or Scene that has not that conformity to the Manners 
of the spectators, you will suddenly see the applause 
cease, and in its place a discontent succeed, tliough 
they themselves do not know the cause of it." 

Just as the theater for which Sophocles wrote dif- 
fered in almost every way from the theater for which 
Shakspere wrote, so the audience that the Greek poet 
had to please, if he was to win the awarded prize, was 
very unlike the audience that the English poet had to 
please, if he was to make his living as a professional 
playwright. There is not a wider diflFerence between 
the theaters of Louis XIV's time, wherein Moliere's 


comedies were first produced, and the cosmopolitan 
modem playhouses wherein Ibsen's dramas are per- 
formed, than there is between the burghers of Paris, 
whom the French humorist had to amuse, and the 
narrow-minded villagers of Grimstad, whom Ibsen 
had always before him as the individual spectators 
he wished to startle out of their moral lethargy. 

Even though the playwright has ever to consider the 
playgoers, their opinions and their prejudices, he is 
under no undue strain when he does this ; and the most 
of his eflFort is unconscious, since he is always his own 
contemporary, sharing in the likes and dislikes of his 
fellow-countrymen, the very men whom he hopes to 
see flocking to the performance of his plays. Sophocles 
did not need to take thought to avoid what would be 
displeasing to the thousands who sat around the hol- 
low slope of the Acropolis ; he was an Athenian him- 
self ; and yet, no doubt, he acted always on the advice 
Isocrates used to give to his pupils in oratory, who 
were told to "study the people." Shakspere did not 
have to hold himself in for fear of shocking the en- 
ergetic Elizabethans; he was himself a subject of the 
Virgin Queen, one of the plain people, with an instinc- 
tive understanding of the desires of the playgoers of his 
age. As M. Jusserand has acutely asserted, the Eng- 
lish playgoing public of Shakspere's time demanded 
" nourishment suited to its tastes, which were spon- 
taneous and natural; it imposed these on the play- 
makers; it loved, like all peoples, to see on the stage, 
made more beautiful or more ugly, that is to say, more 
highly colored, what it found in itself embryonically, 
what it felt and could not express, what it could do and 
yet knew not how to narrate." 


Moli^re was able to choose themes to interest his 
contemporaries because he was himself a Frenchman, 
sympathizing with the sentiments of his time and 
governed by the same heredity as the spectators of his 
plays. He is himself the superb example of the truth 
of Nisard's assertion that " in France the man of genius 
is he who says what everybody knows ; he is only the 
intelligent echo of the crowd ; and if he does not wish 
to find us deaf and indifferent, he must not astonish 
us with his personal views — he must reveal us to our- 
selves." And as Moliere is the type of the urban and 
urbane French dramatic poet, guided by the social 
instinct, ever dominant in France, so is Ibsen rather 
a rural type forever preaching individualism to the 
dwellers in the tiny seashore village where he spent his 
youth, and giving little thought to the inhabitants of 
the larger world where he had lived since his maturity. 
Although cosmopolitan audiences have appreciated 
Ibsen's power and skill, it was not for cosmopolitan 
audiences that he wrote his social dramas, but for the 
old folks at home in Norway, whom he wanted to 
awaken morally and mentally. And here, in his mem- 
ory of the feelings and of the failings of the men and 
women among whom he grew to manhood, we can 
find the obvious explanation of that narrow parochial- 
ism which is sometimes revealed most unexpectedly 
in one or another of his plays. 


A certain knowledge of the people to whom the play- 
wright belonged, and for whom he wrote, is a condition 
precedent to any real understanding of his plays. And, 
on the other hand, a study of the drama of any period 


or of any place cannot fail to supply interesting in- 
formation about the manners and customs, the modes 
of thought, and the states of feeling of the people of that 
country at that time. For example, the medieval drama 
seems to have had its earliest development in France, 
and perhaps for this reason one mystery is very like 
another mystery all over Europe, whether it is French 
or English, Italian or German; but one of the varia- 
tions from this monotony is to be found in the scene 
between Joseph and Potiphar's wife, which the Eng- 
lish redactors treated in outline only or omitted alto- 
gether, but which the French compilers elaborately 
amplified for the greater joy of their compatriots. To 
this day the French are willing to laugh loudly at the 
humorous side of conjugal infidelity, whereas, we who 
speak English are unwilling to take this other than 
seriously. Here we can see reason why many a skittish 
farce, which has amused thousands in Paris, has failed 
to please in New York and in London. 

The lack of popular appreciation about which Ter- 
ence often complained bitterly was due to his incom- 
patibility with the only audiences which Rome then 
knew. He proportioned his intrigues and polished his 
dialogue when his spectators were accustomed to 
coarse buffoonery. Terence was born out of his time ; 
and he might have been a really successful writer of 
comedies had he lived in the Italian Renascence, when 
he could hope for an audience of scholars swift to 
enjoy his delicate finish and his delightful felicity of 
phrase. As it was, Terence, refusing to gratify the 
tastes of the populace of his own time, had to confess 
failure. The more practical Lope de Vega accepted 
the audiences of his day for what they were, less vio- 


lent than Terence's, but quite as robust and wilful as 
Sliakspere's ; and the Spanish playwright made the 
best of the situation, disclosing his marvelous inven- 
tiveness and his splendid productivity in countless 
pieces of the widest variety. In his apologetic poem 
on the " New Art of Making Plays, " he pretended that 
he composed these pieces against his own better know- 
ledge of the so-called " rules of the drama," and that 
before he sat down to write, he was careful to put Ter- 
ence and Plautus out of the room ; but he was prob- 
ably too completely his own contemporary, too much 
a man of his time and of his race, to have been forced 
to any great sacrifices of his artistic code. In reality, 
he seems to have felt no awkward restraint as a result 
of his desire to please his public; and apparently he 
was able to express himself freely and fully in his plays, 
even if he also took care to have them conform to the 
likings of the populace of Madrid. So Shakspere was 
careful to have his plays conform to the likings of the 
populace of London; and he also was able to use his 
dramas for the amplest self-expression. Here we may 
observe once more that the true artist unhesitatingly 
accepts the conditions imposed on him, whatever they 
may be, and that he is often able to turn the stumbling- 
block in his path into a stepping-stone to higher things. 
Even if a Greek dramatic poet could by his pro- 
phetic power have foreseen the potency of modern ro- 
mantic love, he could never have dared a " Romeo and 
Juliet," because the contemporary spectators would 
have failed to understand the swift and sudden jsmo- 
tion which is its mainspring. And, on the other hand, 
the Greek dramatic poets dealt with many a motive 
with which the modern audience can have no sym- 


pathy. For us the beautiful pathos of the "Alcestis" 
of Euripides is spoilt by the contemptible alacrity 
with which the husband allows his devoted wife to die 
for him, although his conduct did not seem at all repre- 
hensible to the Greeks, who held so exalted an opinion 
of the value of the young male citizen to the state, that 
they saw no impropriety in his accepting his wife's 
lovely sacrifice of herself. The "Antigone" of Sopho- 
cles turns also on a Greek sentiment very remote from 
our modern feeling, a sentiment which has to be ex- 
plained to us before we can grasp its significance or 
understand its importance to the noble heroine. And 
again, in the " Medea" of Euripides, the wrathful hero- 
ine's slaughter of her children to revenge herself for 
their father's abject desertion of her seems to us un- 
endurably repugnant. 

At the period when the Homeric poems were com- 
posed, there still survived among the Greeks a belief 
that the sacrifice of a virgin before a fleet set sail would 
bring favorable winds. At the period when the Attic 
tragedies were written, this superstition had probably 
passed away; but the memory of it lingered. The 
Athenian spectators who sat in the theater of Dionysus 
were well aware that their ancestors had held this belief; 
and therefore they were not unwilling to accept the 
legend of Iphigenia, when it was presented in a play 
by Euripides. But we moderns can have no sympathy 
with a superstition like this ; and we do not easily un- 
derstand how it could ever have been accepted. And 
as a result, Racine and Goethe have wasted their efforts 
trying to interest us in a subject which is to us incon- 
ceivable, not to say, abhorrent. 

Shakspere may not himself have had any belief 


either in witches or in ghosts, but he knew that his con- 
temporaries had no doubt about these weird creatures 
and these spectral beings. And he had therefore no 
hesitation in making effective use of them whenever 
occasion served. No modern dramatist dealing with a 
modern theme would dare to invoke the aid of a ghost 
or of a witch, because the belief in them is no longer 
a common possession of his contemporaries. Nowa- 
days, we may be willing to accept stranger things, — 
telepathy, for example, mental healing, and the like; 
but we are not willing to believe that the slaying of a 
maiden will have any influence upon the storms of the 
sea, or that a sheeted ghost will walk the earth to bid 
his son avenge his taking off or to fright his murderer 
with his gory locks. 

It would not be difficult to adduce examples of the 
effect exerted on the dramatist, not by the lapse of time, 
but by the change of country, by the divergence of 
racial points of view even in the same period. For 
instance, in Sudermann's strong drama, *'Heimat," 
known to us by the name of the heroine Magda, the 
unbending rigor of the aged father and his violent 
harshness are almost repulsive to us in America, where 
we are not accustomed to yield so blind a deference to 
the head of the family as the old colonel insists upon 
in Germany. But there is no need to multiply these 
examples, since we all know the divergent attitudes of 
different peoples toward the social organization. In 
this divergence we can find the explanation why more 
than one excellent play is little known outside the land 
of its birth. The finest of French comedies of the 
nineteenth century is the "Gendre de M. Poirier" of 
Augier and Sandeau ; and although it has been trans- 


lated into English or adapted more than once, it has 
failed to interest our audiences, because it is funda- 
mentally French both in theme and in treatment. Its 
appeal is fundamentally local; and the veracity of its 
interpretation of characters essentially French has pre- 
vented its acceptance in Great Britain and the United 
IStates. The more truthfully a dramatist reproduces 
the life about him, the more sincerely he presents the 
special types his countrymen will most surely appre- 
ciate, the more he subordinates plot and situation to 
the revelation of character, the less likely he is to see his 
plays successful outside of his own language. The 
ingenious complications of the inventive Scribe, in 
which the characters were only puppets in the hands 
of the playwright, were performed all over the world, 
while the rich and solid comedies of Augier have rarely 
been exported beyond the boundaries of France. 

There are striking differences to be observed even 
between the playgoers of two countries speaking the 
same language and inheriting the same social opinions ; 
such differences are discoverable sometimes between 
the audiences of London and the audiences of New 
York. For example, in Bronson Howard's " Banker's 
Daughter," the young artist to whom the heroine is 
engaged when the piece begins and whom she thinks 
she then loves, even when she marries another man to 
save her father, has to be eliminated in the course of 
the action, so that she may find herself absolutely free 
to give her true love to her devoted husband. There- 
fore, one act took place in Paris, and a noted French 
swordsman was introduced to force a quarrel on the 
young painter and to kill him in a duel. Although the 
duel is no longer possible in the United States, Ameri- 


can audiences know that it still exists in France, and 
we are familiar with the feud of the southwest and 
with the street-shooting of the mining-camps. But 
when Bronson Howard's play was adapted for London, 
with its characters localized as British subjects, his 
London collaborator protested against the duel, on the 
ground that a British audience would not accept it. 
If the young artist was to become an Englishman, then 
he would laugh at the suggestion of crossing swords. 
So the artist ceased to be, and in his stead there was a 
young soldier; and the act in Paris took place at the 
British embassy, where the officer had to appear in 
uniform. There the French swordsman insulted him 
and his uniform, and in his person the whole army of 
the Queen, until the British spectators fairly longed 
to see the Englishman knock the Frenchman down. 
And when the stalwart young fellow was goaded at last 
to this violence, the London audience could not there- 
after object to his giving to the French swordsman 
"the satisfaction of a gentleman." 

This shows the difiFerence between the two audiences ^'^ 
speaking the same language; and another illustration 
will serve to show the difference that may exist between 
two audiences in contrasting quarters of the same 
American city. When Mr. Clyde Fitch's "Barbara 
Frietchie" was produced at the Criterion Theater in 
New York (where the best seats sold for two dollars), 
the Southern heroine, in her quarrel with her Northern 
lover, tore the stars-and-stripes into tatters, only to 
sew the flag together later that she might be shot be- 
neath its folds. But when this play was taken to the 
Academy of Music (where the best seats sold for fifty 
cents), the heroine was no longer allowed to destroy 



the national flag, for fear that an act so unpatriotic 
would forever alienate from her the sympathy of the 
spectators in that popular playhouse. This anecdote 
is not well vouched for and it may not be a fact; but 
perhaps it is quite as significant even if it chances to 
be only an invention. 

These may seem but trifles, after all ; and no doubt 
they are. But they serve to make clear how dependent 
the dramatist is upon the unreflective sympathy of the 
spectator. This the practical playwrights of every 
epoch and of every clime have always felt. Sometimes 
they have been tempted to take advantage of it un- 
worthily by crude appeals to the prejudices of the play- 
goers they were seeking to please ; sometimes they have 
even descended to overt claptrap. On occasion, they 
have not been ashamed to bring in the national flag to 
capture unthinking applause. Some of them have not 
hesitated to seize every opportunity to praise their own 
country and to contrast their own countrymen favor- 
ably with foreigners. In French plays, the British and 
the Americans are almost unfailing subjects for satire 
and for caricature ; and, on the other hand, the French- 
man has been a butt in countless comedies in the 
English language. 

Even the foremost of dramatic poets have now and 
again been glad to voice eloquently their own patriotic 
sentiments, certain that these would prove welcome to 
their- audiences. Shakspere, for example, let slip no 
opportunity to praise England, precious stone set in the 
silver sea ; and he was so subdued to what he worked in 
that he revealed no insight into the nobility of Jeanne 
d'Arc. Euripides, so Professor Mahaffy has pointed 
out, was prone to make his Athenian heroes paragons 


of perfection, while going out of his way to blacken the 
legendary heroes of rival cities like Sparta and Thebes. 
And in his "Medea," the same dramatic poet seized 
a very slim excuse to insert a superb choral ode to the 
glory of Athens. 


These are merely more or less unfortunate illustra- 
tions of the inevitable dependence of the dramatist 
upon the spectators whose sympathy he must capture ^ 
and whose interest he must awaken. A play must 
please the people for whom it is composed ; and if, for 
any reason, it is unable to do this, then it has missed^ 
its mark. The final verdict has been rendered; and 
r there is no hope of moving for a new trial. And it 
,' must please the whole people, the crowd at large, for 
the strength of the drama lies in the breadth of its 
appeal. It misses its purpose unless it has something 
for all, — for young and old, for rich and poor, for men 
and women, for the educated and for the uneducated. 
More than any other literary form, it has preserved 
the communal quality which characterizes all primitive 
Q poetry. Of all the arts, the drama is essentially the /^ 
' most democratic, for it cannot exist without the multi- \ ^ 
tude. It has been called " a function of the crowd." ^ 
It cannot hope for success when it seeks to attract only 
a caste, a coterie, a clique; it must be the art of the 
people as a whole, with all their divergencies of culti- 
vation. And this it has been whenever it achieved its 
noblest triumphs, — in Greece, when Sophocles and 
Euripides followed iEschylus ; in England, when Shak- 
spere succeeded Marlowe; in Spain, when Lope de 
Vega and Calderon worked side by side; and in France, 



when MoHfere came as a connecting link between 
Corneille and Racine. 

Any attempt to organize the drama on an aristocratic 
basis is foredoomed to failure; and every efiFort to make 
it independent of the average man has resulted in 
sterility. Just as it is unfortunate for dramatic litera- 
ture that poets have sometimes been unwilling to 
master the form which was suited to the theater of 
their own times, and have let themselves lazily de- 
scend to the lower level of the so-called "closet- 
drama," so it would be unfortunate also if they had 
the privilege of composing their plays for a theater set 
apart from the plain people, appealing only to the 
dilettants, and independent of the takings of the door. 
It is good for every man, even if he is truly a poet, and 
especially if he is truly a poet, that he should go down 
into the arena and meet his fellow-men face to face. 
There is mischief in any attempt to found an endowed 
theater which shall not rely for the major part of its 
support upon the public as a whole. 

This is an experiment which has been tried more 
than once, notably when Goethe had sole control of 
the court-theater at Weimar. He chose the plays ; he 
trained the actors; he was the autocrat even of the 
audience, for when the students from Jena expressed 
their feelings, he rebuked them with an Olympian frown 
until they ceased coming. And the result was what 
might be expected. Though both Goethe and Schiller 
prepared plays specially for the Weimar theater, no 
one of these pieces has kept the stage in Germany. 
And Goethe himself, in his old age, seems to have seen 
the futility of his efforts, for he told Eckermann that 
"nothing is more dangerous to the well-being of a 


theater than when the director is so placed that a 
greater or less receipt at the treasury does not affect 
him personally." Probably Goethe would have ad- 
mitted without hesitation that the theater is a function 
of the crowd. The drama is not for the selfish delight 
of the poet alone, who must never neglect his duty of 
revealing the people to themselves. 

The Comedie - Fran^aise is not supported by the 
French government; it is only helped out by the gift 
of the theater itself rent-free and by a subsidy which 
makes possible a proper pension-fund and which frees 
the manager from any temptation to produce the coarser 
types of popular melodrama. It has to reckon with the 
people and it depends for its prosperity upon the sale 
of its seats. This is the case also with the court-theaters 
of Germany and with the subsidized opera-houses as 
well. Although these opera-houses and these theaters 
are aided by subsidies, either public or private, they 
are never rendered independent of the box-office. They 
have to rely for support on the whole body of play- 
goers and opera-lovers ; and if they do not succeed in 
attracting these, then their bankruptcy is unavoidable. 
And this is as it should be, for no art is ever prosperous 
when it is aristocratic, since the basis of every art is 1 
our common humanity. 

It is possible that those superfine spirits who culti- 
vate an aristocratic aloofness from their fellow-men 
may be tempted to assert that if the theater is a func- 
tion of the crowd, then the drama must be of neces- 
sity the vulgarest of the arts, incapable of delicacy of 
analysis, of subtlety of expression, and of any higher 
poetic flight than can be appreciated by the common 
herd. But this assertion is based on a confusion be- 


tween the residuum of the populace and the whole 
body of the public, including the most intelligent and 
the most cultivated. It is to the whole public that the 
dramatist must appeal; and he mistakes his larger 
opportunity if he prefers to attract only the residuum. 
If the theater is to-day a function of the crowd, so it 
always has been; and there is a patent absurdity in 
suggesting that the necessity of pleasing the people as 
a whole prevented Racine from delicacy of analysis, 
Moli^re from richness of exprelssion, and Shakspere 
from exalted flights of poetic self-expression. 

Even the vulgar residuum of the populace is often 
warmly responsive to loftiness of theme and to large- 
ness of treatment. "Hamlet" is ever one of the most 
popular plays which can be presented on the English- 
speaking stage; and "Tartuffe" is unfailingly attrac- 
tive to French audiences. The intellectual aristocrat is 
often tempted to underestimate the good sense of the 
plain people as this is displayed in art and in politics. 
President Butler, in his suggestive discussion of 
"True and False Democracy," has warned us never 
to forget " that the same individuals constitute both the 
mob and the people. When their lower nature rules, 
these individuals are a mob ; when their higher nature 
guides, they are the people. The demagogue makes 
his appeal to the n^iob ; the political leader, the states- 
man, to the peopje." So in the theater, even though 
the cheap playwright may prefer to put together pieces 
good enough only for the mob, sometimes even pander- 
ing to their baser instincts, the true dramatist never 
fears the result of a lofty appeal to the people as a 
whole. He knows, even if others forget, that the 
poetic dramas which the literary critics now most 


esteem, were widely successful when they were first 
produced in the theater. He would echo the opinion 
of Cicero, an artist in letters if ever there was one, that 
"given time and opportunity, the recognition of the 
many is as necessary a test of excellence in an artist as 
that of the few." 

It is a significant fact that the real dramatist, tragic 
or comic, has never expressed that contempt for the 
mere multitude which sometimes falls from the mouth 
of the dilettant and of the amateur. He does not ex- 
press this sentiment because he does not feel it; in- 
deed, he could not feel it without self -betrayal. It is 
his duty to understand the multitude, to sympathize 
with it, to reveal it to itself. Moliere was frank in his 
declaration of his reliance on the common sense of the 
plain people. " I hold it to be as difiScult to attack a 
work which the public approves," so he declared in 
a preface, " as to defend one which it condemns." Suc- 
cess on the stage is probably impossible to a dramatist 
who really has a contempt for the crowd. Dryden, for 
example, was free in voicing his distaste for the comic 
drama of his owh day, and he seems to have despised 
the contemporary playgoers he strove to please by la- 
bored attempts at fun. And Dryden is not one of the 
masters of English comedy ; in fact, his fame might be 
fuller if he had never adventured himself into the comic 
drama. It is related that a distinguished contemporary 
novelist once remarked that whenever he wrote in a 
play any passage which made him tingle with shame, 
then he knew he had done something the theatrical 
public would like. But his knowledge of the theatrical 
public was apparently insufficient, since no one of the 
plays containing these passages has succeeded on the 


(~y stage. He might think the public foolish, but he failed 
■ to appreciate its shrewdness. It may be foolish, in cer- 
tain ways and to a certain extent ; but it knows what it 
likes, — and above all else, it likes sincerity. 


Probably the cause of this novelist's error can be 
found in the fact that he was a novelist, and that he 
believed that the drama was only another form of fic- 
tion, in which he could put the same things that he had 
put into his novels. But a play is not a novel ; and it 
has to be something wholly unlike a novel. Its methods 
are not the same, and its subject-matter is also difiFer- 
entiated from that proper enough in a narrative to be 
read by the fireside. There are themes which the nov- 
elist can treat and from which the dramatist is de- 
barred, because his work is to be set before men massed 
together, and not before scattered individuals. But 
what the dramatist may lose from the duty of taking 
into account the spectators in the theater, he more 
than regains by the greater impressiveness of the play, 
by its more direct effect on those who see it, an effect 
far more powerful than that of the novel, just as the 
influence of the orator is deeper than that of the es- 
sayist. The French government permitted the publi- 
cation of "Oncle Sam" and of "Germinal," but it 
forbade the performance of Sardou's play and the 
dramatization of Zola's novel. There is no need of de- 
nying that the drama has its limitations, for so has 
every other art ; and effects possible to one art are not 
possible to another. There is no need of denying even 
that the novel has its own advantages over the play,just 
as the play in its turn has its advantages over the novel. 



Theophile Gautier, who disliked the stage, perhaps 
because he had to earn his living as a theatrical critic, 
used to disparage the drama as lagging far behind 
fiction in that it never dealt with a new idea until long 
after this had been exploited in newspapers and in 
prose-fiction. Perhaps he would have found it difficult 
to prove his assertion ; but it would be easy to give a 
good reason why there might be some warrant for it. 
It is because the drama must appeal to the people as a ) 
whole, and not merely to the more intelligent, the more 
cultivated, the more advanced. Until an idea has sunk 
into the popular consciousness, until it has been ab- 
sorbed by the main body of a playwright's contem- 
poraries, he can put it into a play only at his peril. 
What Wordsworth said of the poets is true especially 
of the dramatic poets, — that they write under the 
restriction of hoping to give "immediate pleasure to 
a human being, possessed of that information which 
may be expected from him, not as a lawyer, a physician, 
a mariner, an astronomer, or a natural philosopher, 
but as a Man." In other words, the dramatist has ever 
to find the greatest common denominator of the public 
as a whole, whereas the lyric poets and the novelists 
can, if they choose, narrow their appeal to a single 
caste or a single class. Here we can perceive the justice 
of the- general feeling that partisan politics and secta- 
rian religion are, both of them, totally out of place on 
the stage. 

The theater is a function of the crowd ; and the work 
of the dramatist is conditioned by the audience to 
which he meant to present it. In the main, this influ- 
ence is wholesome, for it tends to bring about a dealing 
with themes of universal interest. To some extent, it 


may be limiting and even harmful, — but to what ex- 
tent we cannot yet determine in our present ignorance 
of that psychology of the crowd which Le Bon has 
analyzed so interestingly. We are only begyining to 
appreciate the fact that a group of men and women 
gathered together has a psychic unity of its own, a 
consciousness of itself as an entity, a soul which is not 
merely the sum total of the souls of the men and women 
present. No one has asserted this more sharply than 
Professor Hibben. He declared that a patent fallacy 
underlies the saying that "the whole equals the sum 
of the parts." Although the saying may be sound in 
mathematics it is false in sociology : — 

** In any group of men, in a clan, a tribe, a society, in church 
or in state, the whole is more than the sum of its parts. The 
parts may be seen, they may be counted. We find them in 
registers, in rosters, in tables of census statistics, and yet 
the communal spirit which makes for unity and solidarity 
is unseen. It is the esprit de corps y without which the body 
dies and returns to its elemental parts. And, within the still 
larger range which embraces the circle of mankind in gen- 
eral, the several parts are bound together as members one 
of another, because they are united in a common ancestry 
and a common destiny, a common weal or woe. The spirit 
of humanity makes all one." 

Thus it is that, in the playhouse, every successive 
audience has an individuality of its own, differing col- 
lectively from other audiences, seeing the same per- 
formance in the same theater in the same week. An 
afternoon audience, composed mostly of women, will 
take the points of a play in quite different fashion 
from an evening audience, in which there is a larger 
proportion of men. Humorous speeches and effects 
which bring hearty laughs at night will sometimes 


scarcely evoke even a condescending smile in the after- 

An audience is a crowd, and it has the special char- 
acteristics of any other crowd, of the spectators at 
athletic sports, of the participants in a camp-meeting, 
of the delegates to a political convention. And it has 
also certain characteristics peculiar to itself, to the 
fact that it is gathered in a theater, that it is composed 
of a group of playgoers. Every crowd consists of hu- 
man beings who, when they are a part of the crowd, 
and in consequence of that fact, have each of them lost 
consciousness of certain of his individual mental char- 
acteristics. On the other hand, every one of them has 
acquired a keener consciousness of certain mental 
and emotional qualities which he has in common with 
the other members of the audience. M. Le Bon's doc- 
trine has been neatly condensed into this series of 
statements : — 

"The mental qualities in which men differ from one an- 
other are the acquired qualities of intellect and character; 
but the qualities in which they are at one are the innate basic 
passions of the race. A crowd, therefore, is less intellectual 
and more emotional than the individuals that compose it. 
It is less reasonable, less judicious, less disinterested, more 
credulous, more primitive, more partisan; and, hence, a 
man, by the mere fact that he forms a part of an organized 
crowd, descends several rungs on the ladder of civilization. 
Even the most cultured and intellectual of men, when he 
forms an atom of a crowd, loses consciousness of his acquired 
mental qualities and harks back to his primal nakedness of 
mind. The dramatist, therefore, becJause he writes for a 
crowd, writes for an uncivilized and uncultivated mind, a 
mind richly human, vehement in approbation, violent in 
disapproval, easily credulous, eagerly enthusiastic, boyishly 
heroic, and carelessly thinking." 


And Mr. Clayton Hamilton, from whom this ex- 
tract is quoted, added that 

" both in its sentiments and in its opinions, the crowd is hugely 
commonplace. It is incapable of original thought and of any 
but inherited emotion. It has no speculation in its eyes. What 
it feels was felt before the flood ; and what it thinks, its fa- 
thers thought before it. The most effective moments in the 
theater are those that appeal to commonplace emotions — 
love of woman, 1o^%m>{ home, ^ve of Country, love of right, 
anger, jealousy^ revenge, ambiboiiritist, ano^ treachery." 

This is what underlies VBRo<*^Hijgo's assertion in 
the preface of his " Ruy Bias," that there are three 
classes which go to the theater, — the " main body of 
spectators who demand action, women, who desire, 
emotion, and thinkers who look for character." In 
other words, story, plot, incident, is of primary im- 
portance in a play, since this is what is most pleasing 
to the largest number; and delicacy of character- 
delineation and veracity of psychology are only sec- 
ondary. This truth was seized long ago by Aristotle; 
and it was as imperative in Athens then as it is now in 
Paris and in New York. It seems to explain the boast 
of the elder Dumas that all he required for success 
on the stage was " four boards, two actors and a pas- 

The audience in a theater is first of all a crowd, with 
the characteristics it has in common with all crowds. 
But it is also a crowd of a special type, in that it has 
come together with the desire of recreation, of amuse- 
ment, of pleasure. Its purpose is not serious, like the 
purpose of the camp-meeting or of the political con- 
vention. It is inclined to resent instruction or edifica- 
tion, since it feels that the theater is not the fit place 


for either of these useful things. This is one reason 
why the chief dramatists have rarely attempted to 
preach or to assume the attitude of the instructor ; they 
have been satisfied to present life as they saw it with 
their own eyes, to mirror one or another aspect of 
the infinite complexity of human existence, leaving the 
spectator free to draw his own moral from the picture. 
This is the reason also why no great dramatic poet 
has ever been a pioneer in philosophic speculation. It 
has been the strength of the great dramatists that they 
were not too far in advance of their time, that they 
held most of the opinions of their contemporaries, con- 
tenting themselves with restating the eternal common- 
places of life in imperishable phrase for immediate 
efiFect on their contemporaries. And thus in not striv- 
ing strenuously to be up-to-date, they have largely 
escaped the peril of being out-of-date. "Dramatic 
art," so Professor Letourneau has asserted, "being 
an essentially collective sort of literature, addressing 
itself to the multitude, can not express more than the 
average of the prevailing opinions, of the ideas current 
in the surrounding social medium ; too original views, 
too special feelings, are not in its domain." 

As a result, we can see that any people is likely to 
have, at any period, the drama that it deserves, since it 
can have only the kind of play that it is willing to ac- 
cept. In the golden days of Athens, the Greeks had 
tragedy of the noblest type; and in the decadence of 
Rome, the drama was degraded to vulgar and violent 
pantomime, which had to compete for popular favor 
with the brutal sports of the arena. And even a spec- 


tator to whom these were abhorrent had to yield to the 
infection that emanated from his fellows, massed all 
around him in the amphitheater. Saint Augustine tells 
us of an acquaintance of his who had renounced gladia- 
torial shows, but who yielded to the solicitation of 
friends. For a while he sat with closed eyes, refusing 
to witness the deadly combats, but when he relaxed 
his guard over himself and opened his eyes, he was 
soon caught by the contagion, and he swiftly found his 
soul filled with sanguinary joy. 

In the Colosseum, the crowd had the baser instincts 
of the mob ; and even to-day, in places of amusement 
of the lower sort, we can discover not a little of a similar 
brutality. Yet these are exceptions. In the theater 
nowadays, the crowd is not to be confounded with the 
mob; it is representative of the average of the com- 
munity and not of the inferior elements only. It is 
representative of the main body of men and women; 
and at bottom, the instinct of the main body is to be 
relied on. Burke, who is not to be suspected of undue 
partiality to democratic ideals, did not hesitate to as- 
sert that " man is a most unwise and a most wise being. 
The individual is foolish. The multitude for the mo- 
ment is foolish, when they act without deliberation; 
but the species is wise, and when time is given to it, as 
a species it almost always acts right." 

It is to the species that the dramatist addresses 
himself; and the history of the drania affords abun- 
dant evidence not only that the species acts right, but 
also that its judgment is sound. The great dramatists 
whose works we study reverently to-day were the most 
popular playwrights in their own times. The plays of 
Sophocles and Shakspere, of Calderon and of Moliere, 


filled the theaters when they were first produced. The 
spectator of these masterpieces may not have sus- 
pected that they were masterpieces ; he may not have 
appreciated the rare qualities in them which the stu- 
dent discovers now; but they gave him the specific 
pleasure he was seeking in the theater, and he was 
ready to return there again and again when they were 

We may go further and assert that this broad popu- 
lar acceptance is far more significant of abiding merit 
than the laudation of any minority of professed critics. 
Whenever there has been a divergence of opinion about 
a play between the classes and the masses, time has 
generally proved that the masses were wiser than the 
classes. When Shakspere was a young man, Sidney 
published his "Defence of Poesy,'* in which he poured 
scorn upon the plays that thto held the English stage ; 
he besought poets to take pattern by the drama of 
Greece and of Rome. But the playgoing public of 
London would not accept sterile imitations of this sort; 
and it gave a warm welcome to the large and free 
dramas Shakspere wrote in accord with the bolder 
sentiment of the Elizabethan age. In France, again, 
the French Academy, at Richelieu's request, condemned 
the " Cid" of Corneille for its violation of the so-called 
"rules of the drama." But the playgoing public at 
Paris knew what it wanted, and in despite of the aca- 
demicians, it flocked to the theater whenever the " Cid '*_ 
was performed. The true dramatic poet puts into his / 
plays many things which the public as a whole may f 
not appreciate ; but it is always for the public as a whole \ 
that he writes his plays. ^ 




It is sometimes supposed that the drama consists of incident. It 
consists of passion, which gives the actor his opportunity; and that 
passion must progressively increase, or the actor, as the piece pro- 
ceeded, would be unable to carry the audience from a lower to 
a higher pitch of interest and emotion. A good serious play must 
therefore be foimded on one of the passionate cruces of life, where 
duty and inclination come nobly to the grapple. — Robert Louis 
Stevenson, Memories and Portraits. 

The literary drama has grown out of the folk-drama; 
and it is composed to be performed by actors, in a 
theater, and before an audience. But what is its es- 
sential quality? In what vital way does the drama 
differ from the epic of old or from the novel of our own 
day? What are its necessary characteristics? What 
specific quality is it that sets the drama apart from all 
I other literary forms ? To attempt to define this differ- 
entiation by saying that the drama has to tell a story by 
means of dialogue is inadequate, since dialogue is often 
used for story-telling in poetry and in prose-fiction, in 
the idyls of Theocritus, for example, and in the social 

1 satires of the French lady who has chosen to call her- 
self Gyp. We approach nearer to a satisfactory defini- 
tion when we say that a drama is a story in dialogue 
shown in action before an audience. Its essential 
quality is due partly to the fact that it is to be per- 
formed by actors in a theater, but mainly to the fact 


that it is intended for the public as a whole aod not for 
the separate constituent elements of the public. Its 
specific characteristic is the result of its appeal to the 
throng and not to the individual. Its appeal is to the 
mass, and to the communal desires of the main body. 
What does the mass wish to see when it comes together 
to behold a story in dialogue shown in action by per- 
formers on the stage ? What does the crowd demand, 
under these circumstances, which the individuals taken 
severally would not insist upon ? 

It is the late Ferdinand Brunetiere who has most 
clearly declared the distinctive element of the drama. 
To the volume of the " Annales du Theatre" for 1893, 
the French critic contributed a preface, which he 
called the "Law of the Drama." In this essay, he 
formulated more elaborately a theory which he had 
already summarily suggested and casually applied in 
the series of lectures on the "Epoques du Theatre 
Fran9ais (1636-1850)," delivered at the Od^on Thesr 
ter in the winter of 1891-2. This theory had there 
emerged into view in his opening lecture on Corneille's 
" Cid " ; and it had been a little more fully stated in his 
final lecture on Scribe and Musset. As Brunetiere 
pursued his task, the importance and the utility of this 
theory seem to have impressed him more and more ; he 
considered it anew, and in its remoter implications, 
before setting it forth by itself in his contribution to the 
"Annales du Theatre" for 1893. 

In this prefatory essay, he began by pointing out that 
the so-called ** rules of the drama " are evidently invalid. 
By the rules of the drama, he meant the code of restric- 
tions which were held to give correctness to comedy 
and especially to tragedy. This legislation was the 





result of , the amplification (by La Harpe and Nepomu- 
cene Lemercier) of principles laid down by Boileau and 
d'Aubignac, and derived directly from the Italian the- 
orists of the Renascence, Castelvetro and Robortello. 
The decisions of these critics have been overruled by 
the authority of the great modern dramatists who have 
unhesitatingly violated these alleged rules. 

Yet since the drama difiFers fundamentally from 
the epic and from prose-fiction, it must have some 
essential principle of its own. If this essential prin- 
ciple can be discovered, then we shall be in possession 
of the sole law of the drama, the one obligation which 
all writers for the stage must accept. Now, if we 
examine a collection of typical plays of every kind, 
tragedies and melodramas, comedies and farces, we 
shall find that the starting point of every one of them 
is the same. Some one central character wants some- 
thing; and this exercise of volition is the mainspring 
of the action. In CorneiUe's " Cid," Chimene wishes 
to avenge her father. In MoHere's " School for Wives," 
Arnolphe wishes to marry Agnes, whose ignorance 
seems to him a guarantee of fidelity. Even in a farce 
of Labiche's, the hero wishes to get out of the awkward 
complications in which he is involved. But Labiche's 
hero is opposed in his desires by the fear of reprisals ; 
Moliere's elderly hero is unable to achieve his desire, 
because love for Horace awakens the utibending reso- 
lution of Agnes; and CorneiUe's heroine is thwarted 
in the attaining of her desire by the opposition of a 
stronger will than her own. In every successful play, 
modern or ancient, we shall find this clash of contend- 
ing desires, this assertion of the human w^l against 
strenuous opposition of one kind or another. 


Here, then, we have what Brunetiere declared to be 
the law of the drama. He made it plain that the drama 
must reveal the human will in action; and that the 
central figure in a play must know what he wants and 
must strive for it with incessant determination. This 
is what differentiates the drama from the novel, 
** Figaro," for instance, from " Gil Bias." The hero of 
Beaumarchais has a will of his own and fights for his 
own hand; he knows what he wants and he knows 
why he wants it. The hero of Le Sage drifts through 
life along the line of least resistance; he has no plans 
of his own and he takes what chances to come his 
way. Figaro acts; Gil Bias is acted upon. The play of 
Beaumarchais may be made into an acceptable novel ; 
but the novel of Le Sage cannot be made into an ac- 
ceptable play. A novel may be dramatized success- 
fully only when it is inherently dramatic, — that is to 
say, only when its central figure is master of his fate and 
captain of his soul. Action in the drama is thus seen 
to be not mere movement or external agitation; it is 
the expression of a will which knows itself. 

The French critic maintained also that, when this 
law of the drama was once firmly grasped, it helped to 
differentiate more precisely the several dramatic species. 
If the obstacles against which the will of the hero has 
to contend are insurmountable, Fate or Providence 
or the laws of nature, — then there is tragedy, and the 
end of the struggle is likely to be death, since the hero 
is defeated in advance. But if these obstacles are not 
absolutely insurmountable, being only social conven- 
tions and human prejudices, then the hero has a pos- 
sible chance to attain his desire, — and in this case, 
we have the serious drama without an inevitably fatal 


ending. Change this obstacle a little, equalize the 
conditions of the struggle, set two human wills in op- 
position, — and we have comedy. And if the obstacle 
is of a still lower order, merely an absurdity of custom, 
for instance, we find ourselves in farce. Of course, 
these several dramatic species rarely exist in complete 
purity of type; comedy often declines into farce, for 
example, and farce not infrequently elevates itself 
toward comedy. 

Bruneti^re found a confirmation of his theory in the 
fact that the drama has most amply flourished when 
the national will has stiffened itself for a magnificent 
effort. Greek tragedy is contemporary with Salamis ; 
and the Spanish drama is contemporary with the con- 
quest of the New World. Shakspere was a man when 
the Armada was repulsed ; Comeille and Moliere were 
made possible by the work of Henry IV and Riche- 
lieu ; Lessing and Goethe and Schiller came after Fred- 
erick. And the Orientals have no vital drama because 
they are fatalists, because they do not believe in that 
free will without which the drama cannot exist. It 
is significant that men of action, Richelieu, Conde, 
Frederick, Napoleon, have ever been fond of the 
theater. A belief in free will is always favorable to the 
drama, whereas a belief in foreordination may be not 
unfavorable to the novel, the chief figures of which are 
not required always to know their own minds. 

Here Brunetiere rested his case. He concluded by 
calling attention to the difference between the so-called 
rules of the drama — which are always narrow, always 
rigid, and always certain to be broken sooner or later 
because of this narrow rigidity — and this one single 
law of the theater, as he stated it, large, supple, flexible 


in its application, simple in itself and yet general, rich in 
its consequences and ever ready to enrich itself still 
further by all the confirmations which experience and 
reflection may supply. 


It is not too much to say that this statement of the 
law of the drama is the most suggestive and the most 
important contribution to the theory of the theater 
which has been made for many years. It is as signifi- 
cant as any of Lessing's contributions to the theory 
of art. The more clearly it is perceived, the more illu- 
minating it will be found. Brunetiere has here given 
us the key to many an obscurity. He has provided us 
with an instrument for gaging the true dramatic value 
of a play. He has put into our hands the means where- 
by we can explain difficulties otherwise very puzzling. 
For instance, he has enabled us to see why it is that 
the medieval mysteries, and also the English chron- 
icle-plays (which more or less follow the medieval 
model) are not so interesting as the tragedies in which 
we find the hero "at war with the words of fate.'* 
To the central figure of the chronicle-play things 
merely happen, and while we may be interested now 
and again in the separate episodes, our attention is 
only languidly held by the story as a whole ; whereas the 
central figure of any one of the tragedies stands forth 
the embodiment of will, knowing what he wants and 
bending all his powers to the accomplishment of his 
purpose. This law of the drama explains also why 
novels, full of bustle and abounding in variety of in- 
cident, have often failed to attract the public when 
they were dramatized. 




If any cavil must be made, it is that Bninetiere took 
upon himself to lay down the law somewhat arbitra- 
rily. Perhaps it might have been better to say that a 
consideration of all the masterpieces of the drama, 
and of all the plays of less value which have now and 
again achieved a fleeting success on the stage, discloses 
the fact that the attention of an audience in a theater 
can be aroused and retained only by an exhibition of 
the human will. As individuals, we can find pleasure 
in reading about the misadventures of characters with 
no minds of their own ; biit when we are massed together 
as spectators in the playhouse, these nerveless creatures 
no longer satisfy us, and we demand men of a sterner 
sort, with iron in the blood to struggle valiantly for the 
desire of their hearts. The career of a character to 
whom things merely happen seems to us insufficiently 
interesting when it is represented in action on the 
stage before us collectively, although we may sever- 
ally follow such a career more or less eagerly when we 
read about it in the study. Now and again, of course, a 
piece may delight some few of us solely by its subtle 
revelations of character or by its ironic picture of life ; 
but the plays which have pleased long and pleased 
many have always' an essential struggle to serve as a 
backbone. In other words, what Brunetiere promul- 
gated as a hard and fast decree may be set forth, if we 
prefer another statement, as a logical deduction from 
the accumulated experience of mankind. 

While the credit for declaring this law thus clearly, 
and of applying it so as to bring out the special qual- 
ity of the drama, and to make plain the fundamental 
difference between a play and a novel, is undoubtedly 
due to Brunetiere, he had not a few predecessors who 


had caught sight of the theory which he was to iso- 
late sharply. It is impossible that so pregnant a truth 
about one of the foremost of the arts should not have 
been perceived by earlier critics. Voltaire, for exam- 
ple, in one of his letters, asserted that every scene in 
a play should represent a combat ; and Stevenson de- 
clared that " a good iSerious play must be founded on 
one of the passionate cruces of life, where duty and 
inclination come nobly to the grapple.'* This coin- 
cides with Schlegel's assertion that tragedy deals 
with the moral freedom of man, which can be dis- 
played only " in a conflict with his sensuous impulses." 
So Coleridge emphasized the fact that accidents ought 
not to be introduced into tragedy, since " in the tragic 
the free will of man is the first cause." And in "Wil- 
liam Meister, " Goethe had gone so far as to say that, 
while the hero of a novel might be passive, the hero 
of a play must be active, since "all events oppose 
him, and he either clears and removes every obstacle 
out of his path, or else becomes their victim." 

Probably the source of Goethe's opinion is to be 
sought in Hegel, who treated tragedy at length and 
with his customary subtlety. In setting forth com- 
pactly Hegel's opinions. Professor Bradley noted that 
" in all tragedy there is some sort of collision or con- 
flict — conflict of feelings, modes of thought, desires, 
wills, purposes ; conflict of persons with one another, 
or with circumstances or with themselves." Then 
the British critic brought out the German philos- 
opher's insistence on the essential point that "pity 
for mere misfortune, like fear of it, is not tragic pity 
or fear, since these are due to the spectacle of the 
conflict and its attendant suflfering, which do not ap- 


peal simply to our sensibilities or our instinct of self- 
preservation, but also to our deeper mind or spirit." 
This truly tragic conflict appeals to our spirit because 
it is of the spirit, being a conflict "between powers 
that rule man's spiritual life and have the right to 
rule it. They are the substance of humanity, and es- 
pecially, of man's ethical nature. The family and the 
state, the bond of parent and child, of brother and 
sister, of husband and wife, of citizen and ruler, or 
citizen and citizen, with the obligations and feelings 
appropriate to these bonds; and again the powers of 
personal love and honor, or of devotion to a great 
cause or an ideal interest like religion or science, or 
flome kind of social welfare — such are the forces 
exhibited in tragic action." And as these are all ac- 
knowledged to be " powers rightfully claiming human 
obedience, their exhibition in tragedy has that in- 
terest, at once deep and universal, which is essential 
to a great work of art." 


But is Brunetiere's law of the drama really con- 
tained in Hegel's theory of tragedy? After all, Hegel 
is dealing with tragedy only and not with the whole 
range of the drama ; and he is but giving his own anal- 
ysis of the old theory of the tragic conflict. Brune- 
tiere went much further; he declared a principle by 
which the drama as a whole is differentiated absolutely 
from the epic and prose-fiction. His law governs com- 
edy and farce as well as tragedy. Furthermore, even 
in considering tragedy, Brunetiere laid stress not so 
much on the circumstances of the conflict, of the strug- 
gle in which the hero is involved, as on the stark as- 


sertion of the hero's will. He made plain the fact that 
the truly dramatic element does not lie in the mere 
clash of contending forces, but rather in the volition 
of the hero himself, in the firm resolution which steels 
a man for the struggle. This is a most significant 
simplification of the older idea; and it is most helpful. 

In this simplification, Brunetiere has gone behind 
Hegel ; indeed it may be said that he has gone back 
to Aristotle. The " master of all that know " was ever 
the ardent champion of free will against determinism ; 
and perhaps this sympathetic advocacy of a principle 
which is the fundamental characteristic of the drama 
is added evidence that Aristotle was not only the first 
but also the foremost of dramatic critics. He held 
Sophocles to be the mightiest of the three great Greek 
dramatic poets; and one reason for this preference is 
probably his keen appreciation of the dramaturgic 
dexterity of the author of "(Edipus," the faculty of 
construction, the sheer playmaking skill revealed again 
and again ; bjiit another reason might be found in the 
fact that Sophocles never allowed his hero to be a mere 
plaything in the hands of fate, and always so contrived 
his story that the impending curse did not become 
operative except by the volition of the individual. 

Aristotle anticipated Coleridge in ruling out acci- 
dents and in declaring that poetry rebels against the 
rule of chance. And he emphasized the necessity of 
plot, that is, of a story guided by the human will. 
"Without action there cannot be a tragedy," he as- 
serted ; " there may be without character." As Profes- 
sor Butcher has explained, " the drama not only implies 
emotion expressing itself in a complete and significant { 
action and tending toward a certain end, it also im- 




plies a conflict." The British scholar has also sug- 
gested that "we may even modify Aristotle's phrase 
and say that the dramatic conflict, not the mere plot, 
is *the soul of tragedy.'" And we may in turn modify 
Professor Butcher's phrase and say that the soul of the 
drama is not in the dramatic conflict so much as in the 
naked assertion of the human will which is the cause 
of the conflict. 

That these modifications are necessary is evidence 
that Brunetiere's law of the drama is not explicit in 
Aristotle's treatise, any more than in Hegel's, although 
it may be a development of their kindred theories 
which they would both of them accept. It was Brune- 
tiere who shifted the emphasis from the more or less 
external conflict to the internal act of volition which 
determines the struggle. It was the French critic who 
first made it unmistakably plain that the drama de- 
pends on man's free will. He supported his doctrine 
by examples drawn mainly from the French drama ; 
but other illustrations as striking can be found in 
other literatures. 

The development of English tragedy, for example, 
out of the lax chronicle-play, which was only a strag- 
gling panorama of the events of a reign, was due largely 
to the influence exerted by Seneca's tragedies, poor 
enough as plays, but vigorous in the stoical assertion 
of man's power over himself and of his right to con- 
trol his own destiny. This development of English 
tragedy may even have been helped a little by the re- 
moter influence of Machiavelli, traces of which are 
abundant throughout Elizabethan literature. The so- 
called Machiavellian villains of the tragedy-of-blood 
may reveal a total misconception of the acute Italian's 


principles; and yet none the less the sharpening of 
the dramatic conflict may have been helped at least a 
little by Machiavelli's reiterated emphasis on the duty 
of the strong man to work his will as best he can, de- 
ciding all doubtful points in his own interest. 

The chief advantage of Brunetiere's law is that it"^ 
enables us to set off the true dramatic conflict from 
the grosser forms of combat. The drama cannot exist 
without the theater; and the theater is only a little 
differentiated from the amphitheater. The stage is"^^ 
first cousin to the arena ; and Professor Groos was on 
safe ground when he asserted that " the pleasure af- 
forded by the drama has one very essential feature in 
common with ring-contests, animal fights, races, etc., 
— namely, that of observing a struggle in which we 
may inwardly participate." That is to say, we want to 
take sides ; we long to see one or the other of the two 
parties gain the victory ; we have a communal instinct 
to sympathize with some one strong, central character 
battling against odds, with whom for the moment we 
may even identify ourselves more or less. 

In the ancient arena, the gladiators fought to the 
death ; and with so poignant a presentation of the dra- 
matic conflict as this no Roman playwright could hope 
to compete. In the modern circus, the bloodless effort 
to overcome diflSculty has often an element of lurking 
danger which supplies an added piquancy. Even at 
its loftiest elevation, the drama cannot help having an 
obvious kinship with the "show-business"; and as we 
climb steadily from the cruel and deadly sports of the 
Colosseum, past the startling exploits of the circus, up 
to the sumptuous spectacle of the ballet, and then, at 
last, aloft to the subtlety of comedy and the serenity 


of tragedy, we find the several steps of our ascent so 
close together we cannot tell exactly where it is that 
the true drama actually emerges into view. Here 
Brunetiere's law may serve as a test, in that it shifts 
the emphasis from the outer struggle to the inner 
stiffening of the human will, which controls the 

Even in the cheaper kinds of melodrama, when we 
behold the rivalry of a villain absolutely villainous 
with a hero entirely heroic, apparently only a bald 
antithesis of black and white, both the villain and the 
hero want the same thing, — usually this is the pos- 
session of the heroine ; and there is therefore a tense 
conflict of contending determinations. In plays of a 
higher class, especially in the social drama, dealing with 
themes of contemporary importance, with the burn- 
ing questions of modern life, the opposition is not be- 
tween a bad man and a good man ; it is between two 
opinions, between two men each of whom believes 
that he is in the right, — each of whom, in fact, is in 
the right from his own point of view. And the true 
dramatist does not take sides; he holds an impartial 
attitude, letting both his characters express themselves 
honestly. Perhaps there is no better example of this 
than the "Gendre de M. Poirier" of Augier and 
Sandeau ; and. probably the spectators of this comedy 
sympathize some of them with Poirier and some with 
his son-in-law. 

It may not be easy always for the spectator to de- 
clare exactly what the struggle is, but he can always 
recognize the desire of the central figure. In "Ham- 
let," for instance, externally the struggle may seem 
to be between Hamlet and Claudius, or between Ham- 


let and his own weakness of will, or between Hamlet 
and an overmastering fatality which broods over him 
from the beginning. But there is no doubt about the 
desire of Hamlet himself; he wants to do what is 
right, even if he is ever in doubt as to what he ought 
to do and even if he finds it hard to make up his mind. 
And in "As You Like It," the strife between Orlando 
and his brother, between Rosalind and her uncle, — 
these are only necessary elements of the mechanism 
of the story. Orlando knows what he wants ; he wants 
Rosalind; and Rosalind wants him to want her. 


When we have once accepted and assimilated 
Brunetiere's law of the drama, we can utilize it to in- 
terpret a principle laid down by Sarcey. That very 
practical critic, who passed all his evenings in the 
theater and who deduced all his theories from obser- 
vation of the effect of the acted drama upon audiences, 
declared that in every story which is fit to be set on the 
stage, there are certain episodes or interviews which 
must be shown in action and which cannot be narrated 
by the characters. He called these the "scenes that 
must be treated," the seines a /aire. If any one of 
these essential scenes is shirked by the playwright, if 
he describes it in his dialogue, instead of letting the 
spectators see it for themselves, then the audience will 
be disappointed and their interest will flag. 

The spectators may not be able to declare the rea- 
son for their dissatisfaction; but they will be vaguely 
aware that they have been deprived of something to 
which they were entitled. They feel that they have 
been defrauded of their just expectations, if they are 


not made eye-witnesses of a vital incident which the 
inexpert dramatist has chosen to bring about behind 
closed doors or during one of the intermissions be- 
tween the acts. Sarcey insisted that here was a certain 
test of the born playwrights, of the artists who have 
an instinctive mastery of the theater, that they have 
always an unerring intuition as to the meetings which 
the spectators will expect to see. 

Now, what are the essential scenes without which 
a play will fail to impress the audience? What are 
these scenes which must be shown in action? Ob- 
viously, they are the scenes in which we can see the 
struggle of contending wills. They are the episodes 
wherein the dramatic conflict enters on its acutest 
stage, the interviews wherein there is the actual colli- 
sion of the several resolves, the clash of volition against 
volition. They are those wherein "passion must ap- 
pear upon the scene and utter its last word," — to 
borrow Stevenson's apt phrase. Thus we see that 
Sarcey 's theory links itself logically with Brunetiere's. 
O The essential characteristic of the drama is that it 
deals with the human will ; and a play therefore loses 
interest for the audience when the playwright fails to 
let us see for ourselves the acute crisis of this clash of 
contending determinations. 

Brunetiere and Sarcey derived their theories from 
observation of the practice of the great dramatists ; and 
there is no difiiculty in adducing illustrations from the 
masterpieces of the drama in support of these theories. 
All the great dramatists, ancient and modern, have 
done instinctively what Brunetiere and Sarcey declared 
to be necessary. In the "Agamemnon," for example, 
iEschylus lets the murder of his chief character take 


place out of sight, for that is only the inevitable conse- 
quence of the meeting of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra 
which he sets before us. In "Macbeth," Shakspere 
shows us the guilty determination of Macbeth and Lady 
Macbeth just before the murder of Duncan, which is 
itself all the more impressive because it is not shown. 
In "Othello," we are made witnesses of the working 
of the poison of jealousy in Othello, as this is distilled 
by lago. 

In "Tartuffe," Moliere puts before us the attempt 
which the sanctimonious rogue makes upon the vir- 
tue of Elmire; just as Sheridan sets on the stage the 
assault of Joseph upon Lady Teazle- In the "Doll's 
House," Ibsen lets us hear all that Nora has to say 
after she has discovered the depths of her husband's 
pettiness. The expert playwright of every age has 
been aware that spectators are interested only in what 
they can see for themselves and that they remain but 
tepidly attentive to what is told them. It is the special 
privilege of the theater that it can make a visible ap- 
peal, with all the impressiveness of the thing actually 
seen and not merely narrated. And it is only at his 
peril that the playwright fails to profit by this privi- 

The validity of the principles laid down by Brune- 
tiere and by Sarcey we can all of us test for ourselves 
when we analyze the impression made upon us in the 
theater. If we have found ourselves languid and bored, 
we have only to analyze the conduct of the story to 
discover the cause of our dumb dissatisfaction and to 
assure ourselves that the playwright failed to present 
before us the essential scenes of the essential struggle. 
On the other hand, when a play, tragedy or comedy. 


melodrama or farce, has held our attention, a little 
analysis will reveal to us that this is because the drama- 
tist has made us spectators of the scenes that must be 
treated to bring out the full value of the clash of con- 
tending volitions. 



A country may be ovemin by an armed force, but it is only con- 
quered by the establishment of fortresses. Words are the fortresses 
of thought. They enable us to realize our dominion over what we 
have already overrun in thought ; to make every intellectual conquest 
the basis of operations for others still beyond. — SiB William 
Hamilton, Lectures in Metaphysics and Logic. 

In the mechanic arts, and in the market-place, the 
need of new words is met by the swift selection of the 
term nearest at hand, ill-chosen it may be, but filling 
an immediate want and thereby at once justifying its 
use. For example, in the art of electricity, their con- 
venience forced promptly into circulation such a mis- 
begotten word as "cablegram" and such a startling 
combination as "separately excited boosters." But in 
the library and in the lecture room, higher standards 
obtain, and the rough-and-ready methods of the ma- 
chine shop are unacceptable. As a result of our squeam- 
ishness in the manufacture of the new terms needed, 
and in consequence also of the difficulty in winning 
general acceptance for those which we do venture to 
make, t he vocabulary of critici sm l acks many a wo rd 
w hich it ought to^ ave. For instance, there is no sat- 
isfactory way of distinguishing the true short-story 
from the casual narrative which happens to be brief, 
although it might have been long. And there is no 
single word for that most precious gift to humanity 


known as the sense-of-humor, the negative quality 
which prevents a man from taking himself too se- 
riously, and which is often lacking even in those who 
possess abundantly the positive quality known as 

In the liberal arts, wherein emotion dominates and 
individuality is all-important, we cannot hope for the 
exact vocabulary of the sciences, wherein fact rules 
and the personal equation is cautiously eliminated. 
Horse-power, foot-tons, kilowatts, — these are all terms 
of precision absolutely independent of the user's own 
feelings, whereas tragedy, romance, imagination are all 
words which may call up different ideas in the mind 
of everv individual writer and reader. A writer can- 
not make sure that any reader will take any one of 
the words in the same sense that he himself employs 
it. Professor Gummere, tracing the history of the 
popular ballad, had to devote many of his early pages 
to the definition of the type itself, pointing out clearly 
just what he holds it to be. Probably he would be the 
first to admit that he has no right to impose all the 
elements of his definition upon every other historian 
of literature who shall hereafter consider the subject ; 
and certainly the other historians would be emphatic 
in denying his claim if he had insisted on it. In like 
manner, we find the opening chapter of Professor 
Thorndike's illuminating history of English tragedy 
occupied by the author's effort to arrive at a defini- 
tion of the type, as it arose in Greece and as it has 
developed in Great Britain. 

There is an advantage in insisting upon resolute 
definitions. Even if scientific precision is not to be 
hoped for, every writer gains by the sturdy struggle to 


make sure that at least he knows exactly what he him- 
self intends by the words he employs. He cannot be 
certain that the majority of his readers will always take 
these words in his sense ; but if he can impose his defi- 
nition upon only a few, others will follow in due season, 
until the terminology of the art is made more precise. 
We all recognize now the value of Coleridge's distinc- 
tion between imagination and fancy. We can all ap- 
preciate the distinction between true romance, peren- 
nial and eternal, and the neo-romanticism which was 
aping it a century ago. We are most of us ready now 
to admit that the short-story is a type by itself, diflFer- 
ing from the novel, as the lyric differs from the epic, 
not in its brevity only, but also in its object. We have 
been led to a clearer understanding of the development 
of the Elizabethan drama by the devoted labors of the 
scholars who have revealed to us the existence of the 
special types which they have called the chronicle-play 
and the tragedy-of-blood. These names for groups of 
plays, hitherto lost in the immense mass of our older 
drama, are not merely convenient, they are positively 
helpful to every student of the stage. 

When we set out to investigate the slow evolution of 
the drama in our language, we are entitled to feel that 
we have taken a long step in advance as soon as we 
have attained to a knowledge of the special character- 
istics of the mystery, the morality, the chronicle-play, 
the tragedy-of-blood, tragi-comedy, the comedy-of- 
humors, the heroic-play, the ballad-opera, sentimental- 
comedy, the closet-drama, and the problem-play. We 
have gone still further forward when we have learned 
how tragedy was developed out of the tragedy-of-blood, 
as the tragedy-of-blood had been developed out of the 


chronicle-play. And in like manner, any one under- 
taking a study of the history of fiction cannot fail to 
find profit in the history of the rise and fall of the 
pastoral-romance, the romance-of-chivalry, the pica- 
resque-romance, the oriental-tale, the short-story, the 
detective-story, the sea-tale, and the novel-with-a-pur- 

These names may mean little or nothing to the sev- 
eral authors, each bent on expressing his vision of life 
as best he could ; nor need they be pressed unduly on 
the attention of ordinary readers, content to enjoy 
without question. Every student can find his profit 
in keeping them in mind; but he must remember al- 
ways that we have no right to assume that the author 
ever gave a thought to the specific name the historians 
of literature might one day bestow on his masterpiece. 
Often he would have been puzzled himself to declare 
the literary type to which it properly belonged. Rare 
indeed is the writer who has set himself down delib- 
erately to compose a chronicle-play or a tragedy-of- 
blood which should be only and strictly a chronicle-play 
or a tragedy-of -blood. These questions of terminology 
are for critics only. The creators are careless in the 
matter ; they are seeking to express themselves in one 
of the forms popular at the moment, never hesitating 
to stretch this form till it cracks, or to contaminate it 
with some other type. 

If any one had told Moliere that his two master- 
pieces, the " Misanthrope" and " Tartuffe," stepped out 
of the domain of pure comedy and crossed over into that 
of tragedy, it is probable that this revelation would 
have worried him very little ; and Shakspere made fun 
of the mania for classification when he had the pedantic 


Polonius present to Hamlet a company of actors the 
best in the world for " tragedy, comedy, history, pas- 
toral, pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral, tragical- 
historical, tragical-comical-historical-pastoral, scene 
undividable or poem unlimited." And in Professor 
Baker's " Development of Shakspere as a Dramatist," 
he makes the point that the tragedies of the English 
dramatist may have seemed to the public of their own 
day "not tragedies at all but merely more masterly 
specimens of dramatic story-telling than the things 
that had preceded them." The Elizabethan audience, 
accustomed to the loosely knit chronicle-plays, found 
the tragedies more interesting without ever stopping 
to think that they were different in kind as well as in 
degree. To Shakspere, it is possible that "Macbeth" 
may have been only a chronicle-play more eflFectively 

When M. Rostand had written a part around M. 
Coquelin and had invented a story to carry the part, he 
found himself confronted by the difficulty of classifying 
his drama; and he solved the puzzle by reviving an 
old name for the new type. He declared that " Cyrano 
de Bergerac" was a heroic-comedy. Goldsmith called 
"She Stoops to Conquer" a comedy; and when cer- 
tain critics insisted that it was only a farce, and that 
it contained some scenes "too mean even for farce," 
he may have shrugged his shoulders, since the public 
had laughed at his play, not asking whether their risi- 
bles had been excited by a farce or a comedy. And 
Mark Twain would probably be surprised if it should 
be pointed out to him that "Huckleberry Finn" is 
really a picaresque-romance, a direct descendant of 
"Gil Bias" and "LazariUo de Tormes." Very likely 


the statement would not interest him, since " Huckle- 
berry Finn" would remain thereafter just what it had 

been before. 


But if those labels matter little to the creators, they 
have their importance to the investigatbrs of literary 
evolution. We may modify Pascal's dictum and de- 
clare that half of the art of criticism lies in the preci- 
sion of the definitions. And to the student of any art, 
there is unfailing profit in a firm grasp of classification. 
When he has really apprehended the essential char- 
acteristics of any special type, he is likely to be sur- 
prised to discover it unexpectedly turning up in pe- 
riods when it has been supposed to have practically 
disappeared. There is the chronicle-play, for example, 
which flourished abundantly in Shakspere's youth. 
Professor Schelling thinks that it died out when it had 
run its course in the seventeenth century, and no doubt 
the name has departed from ordinary speech ; but the 
thing itself can be found again and again in the dra- 
matic literature of the nineteenth century, and two 
striking exanaples are visible already in the first decade 
of the twentieth century. The writer of a chronicle- 
play applied to a lay subject the practices of the mys- 
tery which set forth the gospel-story; and he sought 
to put into action and dialogue all the episodes of the 
career he dealt with. He took it as a whole and pre- 
sented it as it came to him, with little selection, sup- 
pression, or climax. He felt no call to focus interest on 
an essential struggle and to make every scene con- 
verge toward a central point. His method was only 
externally that of the drama; for what he wanted to do 
was only to show a narrative in action for the benefit 


of those who could not or would not read the original 
story. When we have once grasped the characteristics 
of the type, we can see easily enough that this is in 
fact the method of the elder Dumas in his "Napo- 
leon" and of Giacommetti in his "Marie Antoinette." 
It is the method also of Mr. Stephen Phillips in his 
"Ulysses" and of Mr.- Percy Mackaye in his "Jeanne 
d'Arc." Tennyson's "Queen Mary" and "Becket" 
are both of them chronicle-plays, — histories, if we 
prefer the Shaksperian term. They are modelled on 
the loose and straggling pieces written by Shakspere 
before he had learnt how to compact a tragic plot. 
And there is no denying that the chronicle-play is 
likely to reappear again more than once in the coming 
century, since it is a lax and easy form, forever tempt- 
ing to poets who are unwilling to take the trouble to 
master the technic of the theater of their own time. 
It has been a distinct advantage to the student of 
the drama that the terms, chronicle-play and tragedy- 
of-blood, have won general acceptance to describe 
special types of the drama. It would be a far greater 
advantage if we were able to use with equal precision 
two more important terms. These are comedy and 
tragedy, both of them words of loose meaning, which 
cannot be applied with any rigorous exactness. Even 
when taken together, they fail hopelessly to cover the 
field, which seems to be divided between them. The 
setting up of these two words over against each other 
would appear to imply that any play which is not a 
tragedy must be a comedy, and any play not a comedy 
must be a tragedy. But this is obviously absurd, for 
there are plays a-plenty which are neither tragedy nor 
comedy, and which also are not even tragi-comedy, 


in any of the many shifting meanings of that bastard 

The word tragi-eomedy seems to have been first 
used by Plautus in his " Amphitryon, " because he com- 
bined serious and comic eflFects, setting gods by the 
side of slaves. Sidney declared that its distinguishing 
quality was to be found in its "mingling kings and 
clowns," and in that its author was willing to "match 
hornpipes and funerals." Here we perceive a survival 
of the now exploded belief that tragedy could properly 
present only exalted personages and that it ought to 
be free from all admixture of the comic, — although 
the "Alcestis" of Euripides has both a humorous 
character, the intoxicated Heracles, and a happy end- 
ing. Nowadays we take a larger view of tragedy, and 
are ready to see it even in the humblest of families. 
Few would be disposed to-day to deny the term to the 
somber "Ghosts" of Ibsen; although this drama is 
in plain prose, although it presents plain people, and 
although it does not actually end in death, we feel in 
it the largeness of a truly tragic theme. 

Both in English and in French, tragi-comedy had 
a long struggle for life ; and finally failed to establish 
itself in either language, although Corneille used it 
to describe his "Cid" and Fletcher to describe his 
"Faithful Shepherdess." Even in Fletcher's time, 
chree centuries ago, its proper application was so 
doubtful that he was forced to declare his own defini- 
tion in his preface to this pastoral play : " A tragi-com- 
edy is not so called in respect of mirth and killing, but 
in respect that it wants death, which is enough to make 
it no tragedy, yet brings some near it, which is enough 
to make it no comedy, which must be a representation 


of familiar people." To-day we have no special term 
to apply to a piece such as Fletcher here describes, 
and the best we can do is simply call it a " play." Yet 
Mr. Henry Arthur Jones chose to revive tragi-comedy 
as the proper designation for his " Evangelist," and it 
would have been convenient to be able to use tragi- 
comedy to describe Mr. Clyde Fitch's "Climbers," 
which although satiric in intent, skirted the edge of 
tragedy; indeed, it is said that one manager declined 
this drama because he did not believe that the public 
would take any interest in a play "which began with 
a funeral and which ended with a suicide." 

For a variant of the type of play which Fletcher and 
Beaumont originated and which Shakspere took over 
from them (in the "Winter's Tale," for example). 
Professor Thorndike has suggested the appropriate 
term of dramatic-romance. And here again is a con- 
venient term to describe certain modern pieces only 
too prevalent in our theaters of late, most of them 
dramatizations of pseudo-historical or wholly fantastic 
tales of adventure, such as "When Knighthood Was 
in Flower" and the "Prisoner of Zenda." The word 
tragedy seems to convey a fairly simple idea ; but, as 
Fletcher remarked, it connotes a deadly termination 
of the story, and so it apparently excludes all those 
serious dramas which fail to end fatally. On the other 
hand, the word comedy has been broadened to in- 
clude all the manifestations of the comic spirit on the 
stage — the lyrical-burlesque of Aristophanes and the 
acrobatic farce of the Italians, which we know as 
the comedy-of -masks, as well as the brilliant satires 
of contemporary society such as Sheridan and Beau- 
marchais gave us. That is to say, tragedy is applied 


strictly to only one of the several types of serious drama, 
the one in which death rings down the curtain ; whereas 
comedy is stretched to include every kind of humor- 
ous piece. As a result, we have no name for the special 
type of comedy which corresponds to the special type 
of tragedy — the comic play which deals with life sin- 
cerely and satirically, without exaggerated caricature 
in the character-drawing and without extravagant 
fun-making in the episodes. High-comedy is what 
one might call the play of this class, taking as our 
typical specimens the "Femmes Savantes" of Moliere, 
the "Way of the World" of Congreve, the "School 
for Scandal" of Sheridan, and the "Gendre de M. 
Poirier" of Augier and Sandeau. In this wise and 
witty comedy-of-manners, — to give it another name, 
more widely used but less exactly descriptive — the 
action, however serious it may seem, never stiffens 
into serious drama; and, on the other hand, however 
amusing it may be, it never relaxes into the robust and 
boisterous mirth of mere farce. Rich as is the dra- 
matic literature of the world, the plays worthy to be 
classified under this head are surprisingly few. Mod- 
ern British dramatists have given us occasional speci- 
mens of this diflScult form, Oscar Wilde's "Lady 
Windermere's Fan," for example, and Mr. Henry 
Arthur Jones's "Liars." The Greeks, from whom we 
have perfect examples of pure tragedy, left us not a 
single specimen of high-comedy — although, of course, 
it is possible that one may yet be discovered amid the 
plays of Menander, if we can replevin them from 

What is even more curious is that there is not really 
a satisfactory specimen of high-comedy to be selected 


out of the immense mass of the Elizabethan drama. 
No one of Shakspere's comedies and not one of Ben 
Jonson's conforms to this special type. The comic 
dramas of Ben Jonson belong to the class known as 
the comedy-of -humors ; and the most beloved of Shak- 
spere's lighter plays, the "Merchant of Venice" and 
" Much Ado about Nothing," are best to be described 
as examples of romantic-comedy, the form which the 
great dramatist specially affected and which he im- 
proved for his own use, even if he took the suggestion 
of it from Greene. In this romantic-comedy, we find 
Shakspere sustaining the interest of the more playful 
theme, with which he is chiefly concerned, by the 
powerful episodes of an underplot which is allowed 
at times to become almost tragic in its intensity. 

However delightful may be the romantic-comedies 
of Shakspere, with their unceasing poetic charm and 
their unfailing contrast of character, they have not 
afforded a model to modern dramatists, who seem to 
have felt that this type of play was a special product 
of the semi-medieval, semi-renascence theater of the 
Elizabethans, and that it would not flourish on our 
modern stage, set with realistic scenery. Indeed, the 
only poet of the nineteenth century who was attracted 
to this Shaksperian form was Alfred de Musset; and 
it must be remembered that the most of his dramatic 
fantasies, passionate yet mocking, were not originally 
intended for the actual theater. 

On the other hand, the high-comedy of Moliere, 
prepared for a playhouse which was modern in the most 
of its conditions, has served as a model for Congreve 
and Sheridan, for Augier and Sandeau, and for all 
who have since essayed the comedy-of -manners. That 


onlj a tew have been able to handle this form success- 
fully is evidence that it is inherently difficult. Appar- 
ently the danger is twofold, and it is very like that 
which oon^nts the lyrist who ventures upon the true 
vers da sociitS. The playwright, who ought to make 
his plot the result of the dash of character on charac- 
ter, is tempted either to surcharge his story with senti- 
ment or to permit his sense of fun to run away with 
him. In the one case, the plot ceases to be comic and 
becomes unduly emotional, as happened in -^'Frou- 
frou," which begins in the best vein of high-comedy 
only to sink at last submerged in sentiment. And in 
the other case, the play becomes wholly comic, and 
abandons sentiment for breadth of humor, as hap- 
pened in ** She Stoops to Conquer," which fails some- 
what to justify its claim to be considered strictly as a 
comedy-of-manners. In fact, if we closely scrutinize 
Goldsmith's dramatic masterpiece, we find in it what 
may fairly be called fun for its own sake. An element 
of frank farce makes itself evident ; and a similar farci- 
cal excess is discoverable also in the " Rivals." Probably 
this is what Sir Arthur Pinero had in mind when he 
ventured to define a comedy as "a successful farce 
written by a deceased author." 



Often has farce been seized as a term of reproach to 
hurl in the face of a living playwright; and melodrama 
has also served many times as a missile of offense. But 
even if they are less noble, farce and melodrama are 
types of plays quite as legitimate as comedy and tragedy, 
and, to the student of the development of the drama, 
each of them has an interest of its own. All the more 


reason is there that the two words should be defined, 
and that we should be able to see why farce and melo- 
drama are properly held to be inferior to comedy and 
tragedy. The cause of this inferiority is simple and it 
may be stated simply. In high-comedy (the comedy-of- 
manners) and again in the serious drama (of which true 
tragedy is one class) we perceive that the plot is made 
by the characters, that the characters dominate the plot, 
and that the plot is what it is solely because the char- 
acters are what they are. But in farce, and again in 
melodrama, the reverse is seen to be the case; the 
plot, the situation, the incidents are the controlling 
factors, and the characters are only what the plot 
allows them to be or forces them to be; they exist 
solely in order that they may do what their maker 
bids them, instead of going forward, apparently of 
their own volition, impelled by the logic of their own 
individuality. In high-comedy (in "TartuflFe" and 
in the "School for Scandal"), and in true tragedy (in 
"CEdipus" and in "Othello"), the successive events 
of the story are brought about almost inevitably, as 
though they could not happen otherwise; whereas in 
farce and in melodrama, the action of any character 
may be arbitrary at any moment. 

If the characters seem to lead an independent life 
of their own, existing apart from the circumstances 
in which they happen to have been presented, if they 
linger in our memories as fellow human beings, whose 
course of conduct we can venture to predict from what 
we already know of them, then the play in which they 
appear is not fairly to be classified as farce or as melo- 
drama. But if the characters fade into nothingness, 
when we seek to separate them from the events in 


which they took part, and if their movements have 
been so illogical and so completely controlled by an- 
other will than their own, that we are ever left in won- 
der as to what they will do next, then the play in which 
they are puppets is farce or melodrama. 

If we apply this test sincerely, we shall find our- 
selves declaring that at least a dozen of Moliere's most 
joyous pieces are farces — excellent farces, beyond all 
question, but farces nevertheless. Furthermore, we 
shall find ourselves putting the same label on at least 
two of Shakspere's plays, the "Comedy of Errors,'* 
and the " Merry Wives of Windsor" ; while yet another 
of his so-called comedies, the " Taming of the Shrew," 
is not only farce, but often farce of a violent type, of 
the slapstick and knockabout variety. And we shall 
be forced also to record that "Titus Andronicus," 
the rank tragedy-of-blood, revised by Shakspere in 
his dependent youth, and also the " Cymbeline" of his 
later years, are both of them melodramas, and that 
neither of them is a masterpiece of plot-making. 

When two surviving comrades of Shakspere, years 
after his death, piously gathered his plays into a single 
folio volume — the most precious possession of all mod- 
ern literature — they risked a rough-and-ready clas- 
sification into three groups, comedies, tragedies, and 
histories; and even then they could find no fit place 
for that nondescript narrative in dialogue, "Troilus 
and Cressida." Later criticism has accepted as fairly 
accurate the grouping together of the so-called his- 
tories, since the loosely knit pieces thus assembled 
are all of them chronicle-plays. The group of trage- 
dies is now seen to include not only true tragedies, 
like " Macbeth" and "Othello," but also at least one 


specimen of the tragedy-of -blood. But the designa- 
tion of the plays in the third group i^ unsatisfactory 
and misleading, however wide an extension may be 
given to comedy. Even if we might fairly include under 
this head the romantic-comedies, the farces, and such 
humorous fantasies as the "Tempest" and the "Mid- 
summer Night's Dream," wherein we find fairy folk 
commingled with our grosser humanity, and the 
dramatic-romances (of which the "Winter's Tale" is 
an example), even then we cannot but feel that com- 
edy is absolutely the one word most inapplicable to 
"Measure for Measure" and "All's Well that Ends 
Well," those dark plays of unlovely intrigue wherein 
Shakspere dealt with themes which were unworthy 
of him and which not even he could make worthy. 


We may rest certain that if Shakspere were to re- 
turn to life to-day, he would waste little of his time 
on the immense mass of contradictory criticism with 
which commentators have obscured his works. When 
he was alive, he never took himself too seriously ; and 
if he came back to this modern world of ours, he 
would find many things to do more interesting than 
to grope through guesses of all sorts about his inten- 
tions in this or that play, which he wrote primarily 
to please the theatergoers of his own time, and second- 
arily to express himself as he was at that particular 
period of his life. Probably it would surprise him 
hugely to learn that the plays, which he did not even 
take the trouble to have printed, were deemed worthy 
of study in our universities, and that critics were 
engaged in classifying them, setting down this as a 


tragedy-of-blood and that as a dramatic-romance, a 
third as a romantic-comedy, and a fourth as merely 
a farce. If asked whether "Troilus and Cressida'* 
ought to be grouped with the tragedies or with the 
comedies or with the histories, he might answer only 
with a shrug of the shoulder. 

We may smile at the long list which Polonius rattles 
oflf glibly, and we may be sure that Shakspere meant 
us to smile at it ; but none the less is classification the 
beginning of knowledge. The student has got hold of 
something solid when he finds out for himself what 
need there was for a term like tragi-comedy in both 
England and France in the seventeenth century, and 
why the eighteenth century saw in France the devel- 
opment of the comedie'larmoyante (known in English 
as sentimental-comedy), and of the tragedie-bourgeoise 
(known in German as tradesman's-tragedy) . He has 
made an advance in knowledge when he ascertains 
just what a ballad-opera is and a musical-comedy, an 
opera-comique and an opera-bouffe, and when he can 
trace the influence they have exerted on one another. 
He will find a profit in grasping the exact scope of 
the English heroic-play, and the Spanish comedy-of- 
cloak-and-sword. He will gain if he keeps clearly in 
mind a working definition of farce and of melodrama, 
to enable him to perceive more swiftly the relation of 
the former to comedy, and of the latter to the serious 

Of course, it is needful for us always to remember 
that classification is a means only; it is never an end 
in itself. It is useful only in so far as it enables us to 
appreciate the exact position of the more important 
plays which have come down to us from the past, and 


to measure the value of the more important of the plays 
which are now proffered to us. in the present day. It 
is a constant aid to the apprehending of the signifi- 
cant fact that the development of the drama has been 
continuous, and that it is subject to laws which re- 
veal themselves at work in every period. Although the 
past and the present may seem very unlike, they have 
many aspects in common; and therefore it is an ad- 
vantage to the critic of the acted drama of our own 
time, as well as to the historian of the dramatic litera- 
ture of other centuries, to be able to explain the one 
by the aid of the other. 

The likeness of certain ancient manifestations of 
the drama to certain modern manifestations is as easy 
to exaggerate as it is impossible to deny; and there is 
no occasion to give undue weight to the suggestion 
that the lyrical-burlesque of the Greeks reveals a cer- 
tain similarity to the nondescript medley made famil- 
iar of late in America by Messrs. Weber and Fields, 
just as the comedies of Plautus show a certain like- 
ness to the plays of tenement-house life in New York, 
put together by Mr. Edward Harrigan. So in Calde- 
ron's day, there were Spanish analogues to the modern 
swashbuckler romanticist pieces, just as there were, 
in Shakspere's time, English analogues of the modern 
Bowery melodrama. The precursor of the problem- 
play of Ibsen can be found more than once in the list 
of Moliere's works, where it is possible also to dis- 
cover an anticipation of our latter-day musical-comedy. 
And for a final illustration of these survivals of form 
and of these reincarnations of spirit, take the comedy- 
of-humors, which Ben Jonson built up solidly with 
his imaginative exaggerations, and set it by the side of 


any dramatization of a loose-jointed serial story by 
Dickens, in which we cannot fail to find the same vio- 
lent distortion of character into caricature. A drama- 
tization of any one of Dickens's novels can hardly help 
being a eomedy-of -humors. 

The French, among whom the critical faculty is 
more acutely developed* than among other peoples, 
have a larger vocabulary of critical terms than there 
is in any other language; and they have devised a 
classification of certain of the effects of dialogue which 
are common to every type of comic play. They call 
a jest which evokes laughter a mot, and they make a 
distinction which is not easy to render in English be- 
tween mots d'esprit, mots de situation, and mots de 
caracthe. The mot d' esprit is the witticism, pure and 
simple, existing for its own sake, and detachable from 
its context — like the remark of one of the characters 
in " Lady Windermere's Fan " : ** I can resist everything 
— except temptation." The mot de situation is the 
phrase which is funny, solely because it is spoken at 
that particular moment in the setting forth of the story, 
like the " What the devil was he doing in that galley ? " 
which is not laughter-provoking in itself and apart 
from the incident calling it forth, but which arouses 
peals of merriment in its proper place in Moliere's 
'* Scapin." And the mot de caractere is the phrase 
which makes us laugh because it is the intense ex- 
pression, at the moment, of the individuality of the 
person who speaks it — like the retort of the wife 
to her sister in the "Comedy of Errors," when she 
has been roundly abusing her husband. Luciana 



satirically comments that a man no better than this 
is no great loss to be bewailed. Whereupon Adriana, 
smiling through her tears, returns: "Ah, but I think 
him better than I say" — a line which gets its laugh, 
of course, but which lingers in the memory as a sud- 
den revelation of the underlying character of the 

It is with the mot d^esprit that we must class the 
most of the so-called epigrams which glisten on the 
surface of the dialogue. They are mere jokes, smart 
sayings, and ingenious aphorisms, taken out of a 
notebook and pinned into this play or that, as appro- 
priate to the one as to the other. They offer to a clever 
young man a short and easy way to attain the bril- 
liancy and the verbal glitter which we have been ac- 
customed to expect in English comedy, . since the 
author of the " Way of the World " sent up his Con- 
greve rockets. They delight us at first, even though 
at last they fatigue us a little, in the comedies of 
Sheridan and in the comedies of Oscar Wilde;. and yet 
neither of these ingenious dramatists relied for suc- 
cess upon this superficial flashing of brisk witticisms, 
being very careful, in "Lady Windermere's Fan," as 
well as in the " School for Scandal," to construct a 
solidly framed plot, with a clearly defined struggle of 
contending desires, to sustain the interest of the spec- 
tators. Underneath the crackling of artificial wit, there 
is a well-built play, the story of which would please in 
the theater, even if the spoken words were absolutely 

This device of sprinkling detachable witticisms 
throughout the dialogue has the obvious disadvantage 
that it forces the author to endow his empty-headed 


characters with his own alertness of intelligence. For 
instance, Mrs. Malapropos blunders are far too felici- 
tous to be natural in the mouth of a lady so litnited in 
understanding; and the elaborate system of swearing 
expounded by Bob Acres is far too clever for that rather 
fat-witted country squire. Sheridan, who had not only 
humor, but also the rarer sense-of-humor, did not 
fail to detect the weakness of his practice, and in the 
"Critic," when one of the spectators of the play, 
which is being rehearsed, ventures to suggest that a 
certain speech is rather above the capacity of the 
character who had just delivered it, the author promptly 
retorts that he is " not for making slavish distinctions, 
and giving all the fine language to the upper sort of 

The temptation to attain brilliancy of dialogue by 
the use of these portable witticisms projected into the 
play by main strength is one which the true dramatist 
outgrows as he gains in years. It was in their youth 
that Congreve and Sheridan gave their comic master- 
pieces to the stage. It was in his youth that the younger 
Dumas displayed the facets of his wit in the "Demi- 
Monde," which bristles with obvious mots d' esprit, 
surface adornments lacking in the "Francillon" of 
his maturer years, in which there are few quotable 
phrases, but in which the wit is incessant, pervasive 
rather than paraded, integral, and not external. This 
later comedy of Dumas 's deserves the praise which 
Mr. William Archer once bestowed on a play of Bron- 
son Howard's, whereof the dialogue abounded in 
witty speeches which belonged there, "like blossoms 
on a laburnum," instead of being stuck on, "like 
candles on a Christmas tree." 



Closely akin to the mot (Tesprit are the longer pas- 
sages, also existing for their own sake, and enriching 
the dialogue, it may be, but not serving to help along 
the action of the play. There is no logical necessity 
for Jaques to set forth the seven ages of man, or for 
Touchstone to nominate in order the seven degrees of 
the lie. Even though we cannot wish either of these 
speeches away, we cannot deny that the one, as well 
as the other, is an excursus. Touchstone's explanation 
seems doubly out of place, in that it is inserted in the 
last scene of all, when the comedy is hastening toward 
its happy end. Perhaps it was written to fatten the 
clown's part, and perhaps it was put precisely where 
it is to give Rosalind time to change from the boyish 
costume of Ganymede into the ampler habiliments of 
her own sex. Jaques's cynical denunciation of his fel- 
low-man can easily be defended, it is only fair to note, 
by the plea that it is the completest revelation of its 
speaker's character ; in other words, that it is in fact to 
be classed not only with mots d'esprit but also with mx)t8 
de caractkre. And a like defense might be proffered 
for the hunting speech of Lady Gay Spanker in " Lon- 
don Assurance," a highly artificial tirade. 

But every one of these glittering passages bears a 
striking likeness to a tenor or soprano solo in Italian 
opera, devised to exhibit the accomplishments of the 
performer rather than to contribute to the rounding 
out of the play. Such bravura passages are common 
also in later Roman tragedy, when the dramatic poet 
steps aside for a moment to air his eloquence at greater 
length than is necessary. This is one of the vulnerable 
spots in the armor of the dramatists, pierced by the keen 


wit of the authors of the "Rehearsal," the attack on 
Dryden (the framework of which Sheridan borrowed 
when he wrote the " Critic ") . When one of the by- 
standers remarks that a certain passage in the piece 
that is being rehearsed is "not to the purpose, for the 
play does not go on," since "the plot stands still," the 
irritable author promptly retorts with the unanswer- 
able query: "What is the plot good for but to bring in 
fine things?" It deserves to be noted that Shakspere, 
who indulges freely in these pleasant digressions in his 
comedies, is chary of them in his tragedies, as though 
the severer tragic mold forced him to strive for the 
loftiest standard, such as he found no need to impose 
on himself in comedy, which seemed to him a form 
looser and less clearly defined. 

The mot de situation is far more valuable to the play- 
wright and far more mirth-provoking to the audience 
than the mot d^esprit. But it is less easy to illustrate 
because it is part and parcel of the story of the play, 
and it is therefore not quotable without an explanation 
of the incident which evokes it. As good an example 
as any is the "sister, sister, every way" of Congreve 
in " Love for Love," which owes its point to the attempt 
of Mrs. Foresight to corner Mrs. Frail by producing 
unexpectedly a gold bodkin and by asking where the 
other lost it; "oh, sister, sister!" Taken aback for a 
moment, Mrs. Frail collects her wits quickly and re- 
torts : " If you go to that, sister, where did you find this 
bodkin? Oh, sister, sister, every way!" But the great 
master of the mot de situation is Moliere, who always 
scornfully refrained from the easier mot d*esprit. With- 
out descending to the mechanical trick of the catch- 
word, Moliere more than once redoubles the effect 


of a mot de situation by carefully calculated repetition. 
And the trick of the catchword, mechanical as. it is, 
can be varied adroitly. In " Lady Windermere's Fan," 
for example, a young girl, whom we see taking part 
in the general conversation, and after a while wooed 
and finally engaged to be married, is never heard to 
say anything except "Yes, mamma." 

As for the mots de caractire, there is no need to say 
much, for examples will spring swiftly to the minds 
of all lovers of Moliere and of Shakspere. Falstaflf 
abounds in them : " I think the devil will not have me 
damned, lest the oil that is in me should set hell on 
fire," which is a mot d'esprit as well as a m^t de carac- 
the. Indeed, it would not be difficult to pick speeches 
out of Falstaff 's which combine the merits of the mot 
d^esprity the mot de situation, and the m^t de caract^re. 
And the characteristics of all three types are united also 
in the speech of Sir Peter to his wife in one of the 
famous quarrel scenes of the " School for Scandal," 
when Lady Teazle says: "I should think you would 
like to have your wife thought a woman of taste"; 
and the husband explosively retorts: "Taste! Zounds! 
madam, you had no taste when you married me!" 



Tragedy or comedy, every stage-play is, in a certain sense, only 
a tissue of conventions. It is a convention to compact into a few 
hours of time the whole drama of an existence or the duration of the 
catastrophe which historically brought it to an end; it is a conven- 
tion to lend to the persons of this play the language of verse or even 
that of a prose which is generally neither their maternal tongue nor 
the speech of their condition. — F. BRUNETiiiRE, Histoire de la 
littSrature franpaise dasgique. 

As the dramatist .writes for the theater of his own time, 
he begins always by accepting the theatrical traditions 
which he finds established, and as he seeks to interest 
the spectators, he has no hesitation in utilizing the con- 
ventions which he finds in favor with his audiences. 
Art exists only when the artist in his search for truth 
is allowed to depart from the mere facts of life. Paint- 
ing "steals but a glance of time," and represents as 
motionless that which we know to be vibrating with 
movement. Sculpture is not only motionless, it is also 
monochrome ; and the sculptor transmutes into the uni- 
formity of marble or bronze the varied hues of the hu- 
man figure and sometimes even the variegated tints of 
customary costume. To deny to the painter or to the 
sculptor the privilege of thus ignoring the accidental 
facts of life, is to refuse him the right to delight us with 
his work. Strictly speaking, of course, the immobility 
of a picture or of a statue is not " natural" ; but unless 


we grant at once this departure from nature, we deny 
ourselves the enjoyment of painting and of sculpture. 
Underlying every one of the arts, there is a kindred de- 
parture from " nature," which we must tolerate before 
we can give ourselves up to the pleasure which that art 
offers us. Even in the primitive ballad, we find the char- 
acters talking in rime, which was never the practice 
of mortal man. But we like rime, in its proper place, 
and we gladly allow the lyrist to assume that he is set- 
ting before us beings who are wont to express them- 
selves in rime as well as in meter. 

A convention is thus seen to be a denial of the actual 
fact, known to us all, a denial which we permit for 
our own profit. In most of the arts, we have accepted 
these necessary conventions so completely that we are 
wholly unconscious that they authorize the artist to be 
"unnatural." We are so constituted that what is fa- 
miliar tends to be received as right and proper — in a 
word, as rational. But what is familiar to us is not 
necessarily familiar to others; and the American In- 
dians, when they first saw a portrait in profile, used 
to ask where the other side of the face was, — a ques- 
tion which would never occur to any of us, accustomed 
as we are to frequent the picture galleries. Indeed, 
we are so familiar with the art of the draftsman that we 
recognize a portrait in black ink on white paper, or in 
white chalk on a blackboard, although we have none of 
us either a black or a white line around our faces. 

The conventions which underlie each of the arts are 
permanent, for without them the art could not exist. 
They are tacit agreements between the artist and the 
public that if he shall be authorized to ignore certain 
of the mere facts, he will do his best to present the truth 


as he sees it. A convention is an implied contract be- 
tween two parties; and neither party has a right to 
violate the conditions of the treaty. It is the convention 
of opera, for instance, that there exists a race of human 
beings, whose natural speech is song; and the opera- 
goer has no right, therefore, to object to the death- 
song of Tristan on the ground that a dying man would 
not have the physical strength to sing for half an hour 
on his death-bed. It is the refusal of Tolstoy to abide 
by this implicit contract which invalidates his con- 
temptuous attack on the opera. So the convention 
which underlies pantomime is that there exists a race 
of human beings, whose natural speech is gesture, and 
who are able to employ it to express all those emotions 
which the rest of us would translate into spoken words. 
To be willing to accept this contract is a condition 
precedent to our enjoyment of pantomime. We may, 
if we choose, refuse to be parties to this agreement; 
but then there is nothing for us to do but to keep out 
of the theater whenever a pantomime is represented, 
as Tolstoy should have kept away when an opera was 

Besides these permanent conventions which are the 
basis of each of the several arts, we can discern others 
which are temporary and accidental, accepted in only 
certain places and only for certain periods, but not 
prerequisite to the existence of the art. For example, 
in the wall-paintings of the royal tombs of Egypt, 
men are depicted in ruddy brown and women in pale 
yellow, while the Pharaoh is always very much larger 
in proportion than are his subjects. So in the Pom- 
peian pictures of mythological themes, the less impor- 
tant figures are painted upon a smaller scale. Tem- 


porary conventions of this sort are due sometimes to 
special conditions. A sculptor who intends to repro- 
duce his clay model in bronze can rely upon the firm 
supports to be concealed inside that metal; but if he 
expects to make a statue of marble he has to intro- 
duce something, a falling drapery or an arbitrary 
column, which will add strength to the ankles, where 
the marble would be most fragile. There are even 
Roman sculptures, in which the body of a horse is 
frankly sustained by a wholly impossible trunk of a 
tree projecting up from the ground into the belly of 
the animal. 


The drama, being an art, has its necessary conven- 
tions, like all the other arts ; and it has also its tempo- 
rary and accidental conventions, often due to special 
circumstances of a particular theater. The necessary 
conventions of the drama are the result of three con- 
ditions of theatrical performance. The first of these is 
that the dramatist has at his disposal only a limited 
time — two or three hours at the most ; and he is there- 
fore compelled to select rigorously the vital elements 
of his theme and to compact his dialogue out of all 
resemblance to the ample and repetitious speech of 
ordinary life. The second and the third are the obli- 
gation so to handle his story that everything done on 
the stage can be seen by the spectators in the theater, 
and that everything said on the stage can be heard by 
the audience. The playgoer wants to have as much 
as possible packed into the "two hours' traffic of the 
stage"; he wants also to see everything and to hear 
everything; and he is therefore ready to grant to the 


playwrights every privilege which will help them to 
give him what he wants. 

First of all, of course, he insists on understanding 
the story ; and therefore the dramatists always employ 
the language which they and the spectators have in 
common. This is so needful that we take it for granted ; 
and yet it is not "natural" that the Persians in the 
tragedy of iEschylus should speak Greek, that Julius 
Caesar and Hamlet and Romeo should speak English 
and not Latin and Danish and Italian; and that the 
Cid of Corneille and the Don Juan of Moliere should 
speak French. In " Henry V," Shakspere pushes this 
convention still further ; the English characters speak 
English, of course, and so also of course do the French 
characters among themselves — except in one scene; 
but when Henry V is wooing Katherine, she uses the 
hesitating broken English of a learner of our tongue. 

It is true that condensation is also necessarv in the 
dialogue of prose-fiction, a rigorous selection of signifi- 
cant remarks. The most realistic novelist, striving to 
echo the accent of contemporary triviality, has never 
dared to let his characters discourse at one half the 
length to which their chatter would run in real life. 
The pressure of time forces the playwright to compact 
his dialogue to an extent never dreamed of by the 
novelist. This is one reason why the dramatizer of 
a novel has to rewrite its dialogue in conformity with 
the different scale demanded by the theater. On the 
stage, a love-scene of supreme importance may be so 
artfully condensed that it does not last more than five 
minutes, although in real life it might have taken at 
least one hour. 

Not only does the dramatist condense the speech 


of his characters, but he clarifies it also. Every per- 
son in a play is supposed to be capable of saying just 
what he means the first time of trying, and in the few- 
est possible words ; and this is a very violent departure 
from the practice of everyday life, where our speech 
is uncertain, halting, and ragged. Every character also 
uses the best possible words to voice his thought, and 
every other character immediately takes his meaning 
without hesitancy; and this is again a Variation from 
the fact, since we are continually failing to catch the 
exact intent of those with whom we are talking. 
Praise is abundant for the verisimilitude of the dia- 
logue of Ibsen's Social dramas and for the skill with 
which Ibsen has given to every one of his characters 
the actual vocabulary which that character would 
use. Yet his compact and polished prose rests as 
frankly on a convention as the song of the operatic 
hero or as the all-sufficient gesture of the pantomimist. 
The convention underlying Shakspere's tragedy is 
that the characters belong to a race of human beings 
whose habitual speech is blank verse, the unrimed 
decasyllabic iambic. Yet in some of his earlier plays, 
Shakspere varies from this convention, frequently 
dropping into rime, while in certain of his other plays, 
notably in " Julius Csesar," he makes another depar- 
ture, and we find the heroic figures employing blank 
verse,. the less distinguished characters using a stately 
rhythmic prose, while the populace appropriately 
sinks into the every-day speech of the common folk. 
The corresponding convention underlying the trage- 
dies of Corneille and Racine and the comedies of 
Moliere is that the characters belong to a race of be- 
ings whose habitual speech is the alexandrine, with 


alternating couplets of masculine and feminine rimes. 
As we who speak English are used to blank verse, 
Shakspere's lines seem to us " natural " ; and as we 
are not accustomed to hear rime on the stage, Cor- 
neille's lines often seem to us "unnatural." But both 
are departures from the actual facts of human speech ; 
each is a convention accepted willingly by the com- 
patriots of the author. So in the Spanish drama, we 
find dsonantes relieved by an occasional sonnet, with 
its complicated metrical construction. But this is 
scarcely a bolder contradiction of the mere facts of life 
than the convention which obtains in the comedies 
of Congreve and of Sheridan, where alll the characters, 
even illiterate servants, are endowed with the keen and 
finished wit of the author. 


It is imperative that we should approve of the essen- 
tial conventions of the drama, or we must deny our- 
selves the pleasure of the theater. We may not even 
be aware that they are conventions, but we permit 
them none the less. Almost any non-essential con- 
vention we are willing also to accept, if its acceptance 
is helpful, even though it contradicts all our habits. 
We moderns are accustomed now to realistic scenery 
and characteristic costumes in the theater; the Greeks 
of old and the Elizabethans after them had the full 
pleasure of the drama without these accompaniments. 
And yet we are willing enough to get along without 
either of these accompaniments, if the bargain is 
frankly presented to us beforehand. Henry Irving 
once performed the "Merchant of Venice" at West 
Point in the mess-hall, on a platform draped with 


flags, without any scenery; and Edwin Booth once 
gave "Hamlet" at Waterbury, the whole company 
appearing in their traveling clothes, because their 
stage-costumes had miscarried. In both cases, the 
spectators were warned in advance; they knew what 
to expect and they speedily adjusted themselves to the 
novel conditions. Moliere's "Misanthrope" was once 
performed before Louis XIV in the marble court of 
Versailles without any attempt at an appropriate back- 

In a play, all the details of action and of speech must */ 
be significant, or else the playgoer is misled and his 
interest distracted. He wants to see everything that is 
done; and therefore the fourth wall of every room 
is removed, so that he can behold what takes place on 
the stage. He wants to hear everything that is said; 
and therefore a character whispering a sharp warning 
to another character, in the presence of a third, so 
pitches his voice that it carries to the back of the 
auditorium, although it is supposed to be inaudible 
to a third character only a few feet distant. 

In the English playhouses of the eighteenth century 
and of the early nineteenth, the most important epi- 
sodes of a play were acted in the "focus" close to the 
pit, and remote from the scenery, for it was only here 
that there was light enough for the spectators to see 
the changing expression on the faces of the actors. 
This was a convention then acceptable to the play- 
goer, since it increased his pleasure; but it is unac- . 
ceptable in our smaller theaters wherein the electric 
light illuminates every part of the stage. To-day we 
expect an actor to remain " in the picture." Acting in 
the focus was a temporary convention due to temporary 


conditions; and when these conditions ceased, the con- 
vention was no longer tolerable, although it survived 
the conditions out of which it arose. We are still will- 
ing that the lilting lyric trolled by Rosalind in the 
Forest of Arden shall be accompanied by the full 
orchestra of the theater; the arrant absurdity of this 
does not annoy us, partly because we are used to it, 
and partly because we prefer it. 

But we should resent immediately any similar ab- 
surdity to which we were not accustomed. It is a little 
difficult for us to understand how it was that the mass- 
ing of spectators on the right and left of the stage when 
Shakspere's and Moliere's plays were first acted, 
did not interfere with the verisimilitude of the per- 
formance. This is a state of affairs which would strike 
us now as very strange, although it seemed natural 
enough then to the rest of the audience, as they were 
used to it and knew no other device. These spectators 
on the stage were supposed not to be there, and there- 
fore they did not interfere with the pleasure of the 
others. A similar convention still exists in the Japanese 
theater. One American visitor to the playhouse in Tokio 
has recorded his impressions of the performance with 
significant analysis of the ultimate effect : — 

" The prompter sat on the stage in view of the audi- 
ence, and the fact that he was dressed in a skin-tight suit 
of black with a black hood, like a chimney sweep or a 
goblin, and that he kept his face always from the specta- 
tors, was supposed to render him invisible. Another black 
imp remained on the scene to act as dresser and stage 
manager. It was his duty to assist an actor in making any 
alteration in his costume, and to carry away any prop that 
had been used: a letter, fan, or tea-tray. If he thought an 


actor's sash was not properly fastened, he would creep up 
behind him, even though the actor were speaking, and tie 
it properly. We were not supposed to see him do this. 
As a matter of fact, it was curious how soon one failed to 
note his presence." 

Just as the Japanese attendants in black are sup- 
posed to be invisible, like the spectators on the English 
stage, so we can find analogues to Shakspere's medley 
of prose and verse in the classic Sanskrit drama, in 
which the heroes speak the nobler Sanskrit, while the 
women and the servants are allowed only the humbler 
Pali. In the medieval Portuguese passion-plays, the 
devil often spoke Spanish; and in the more modern 
pieces written for the east side Jewish theaters of New 
York, it is only the broadly comic characters who are 
frankly Yiddish in their vocabulary. 

It is not easy always to distinguish between a con- 
vention and a tradition. Strictly speaking, a conven- 
tion is a departure from the fact in order to give the 
spectator something he would otherwise have to forego. 
A tradition is an accepted way of doing things, which 
may or may not be completely "natural." Conven- 
tions are all traditions, but not all traditions are con- 
ventions. In the Latin drama, we find a tradition taken 
over from the Greek drama, the frequent employment 
of an intriguing slave, who plots for his master's bene- 
fit. This scheming servant may be truthfully portrayed 
along the traditional lines; but when he reappears in 
Moliere, he has no longer any relation to real life ; he 
stands forth as a tradition which has become a conven- 
tion. In the Greek drama, again, we find the "recogni- 
tions" which Aristotle discussed, such as the sudden 
discovery by parents of long-lost children. Now, in 


Greece, where there was ever intermittent war and 
casual piracy, children were captured and sold as 
slaves ; and it was always possible that they might be 
restored to their parents at the end of the play. But 
when the Latin drama took over this tradition of the 
Greek drama, it became only a convention, since the 
conditions of life had changed and there was little 
likelihood that sons might be sold into slavery and 
bought by their own fathers, as in the " Captives" of 
Plautus. And when this Greek tradition, which had 
hardened into a convention in Rome, is transplanted 
into Italian comedy and into French, its convention- 
ality is seen to be flagrant, — a fact which did not 
prevent Moliere from employing it. 

When Moliere borrows plots from the Italians, he 
is forced to make a convention out of another tradi- 
tion. In Southern Italy, where the comedy-of-masks 
flourished, people live out of doors; and the traditional 
scene of the Italian improvised play is a public square, 
in which all the characters meet to talk about their 
private affairs. But when Moliere transplanted this 
tradition to Paris, where the climate is colder and 
damper, and where business is transacted indoors, 
when he represented M. de Pourceaugnac and the 
two doctors sitting down for their comic consultation 
in chairs set out in the street, he was obviously trans- 
forming the Italian tradition into a mere convention. 

The traditions of the medieval stage survived for 
a long while, and they are visible abundantly in Shak- 
spere's plays and even in the earlier pieces of Corneille. 
In our modern theaters, the changes of scenery are 
consecutive; the scene of the second act may be dif- 
ferent from that of the first act, and the later acts may 


each have its own set. But on the medieval stage, 
especially in France, the traditions of the earliest per- 
formance of the passion-play in the church had led 
to a wholly different arrangement. In the church, the 
several episodes were acted in several places, each of 
which was known as a " station " ; and in France, when 
the mystery was thrust out of the church, these sta- 
tions were all erected in one long line at the back of 
the platform on which the performance took place, 
and they were known as " mansions." Thus it was that 
the French theater came to have the "simultaneous 
set," all the places needed in the action being then in 
sight at once, not displayed consecutively, as is the 
custom to-day. It is this tradition of bringing together 
places actually remote, which Shakspere follows in 
" Richard III," when he sets on the stage at the same 
time the tent of Richard and the tent of Richmond. 
Probably these tents were represented in the Globe 
Theater only by a looping back (at the extreme right 
and at the extreme left) of the tapestry pendant from 
the upper gallery. When Corneille adapted the " Cid" 
from the Spanish, he employed this simultaneous set, 
erecting on the stage the mansions required for his plot, 
and letting the stage itself serve as a neutral ground 
where all the characters might meet as they entered 
each from his own dwelling. This was absolutiely in 
accord with the medieval tradition. 


Of all the conventions of the drama, none has a more 
interesting history than the soliloquy, the speech in 
which a character talks aloud, not to any person on the 
stage with him, but directly to the audience. And one 



of the most striking changes which have taken place 
^ I in the drama of our own time is the sudden disap- 
pearance of the soliloquy. In the final decades of the 
nineteenth century, the leading playwrights of every 
modern language began to display a distaste for this 
monologue, with Ibsen setting the example of renuncia- 
tion. Time was, and not so long ago, when the play- 
wright found it very convenient to have the villain lay 
aside his mask and bare bis black soul in a speech to 
himself. But now this device, convenient as it may be, 
is discarded. No longer does a character come down 
to the footlights for a confidential communication to 
the audience, telling them his thoughts, declaring his 
intentions, and defending his acts. So sharp is the 
reaction against the practice, that the French writer 
of a eulogistic study of the later German naturalistic 
dramatists, after praising the technic of Hauptmann, 
asserts positively that the soliloquy and the aside are 
hereafter banished from the stage. 

Yet this abandonment of these conventions, how- 
ever complete it may seem now, is very recent indeed. 
Ibsen made a frank use of these devices in his earlier 
dramas. In Sudermann's "Honor," one character, 
Trast, talks aloud to himself, and then still soliloquiz- 
ing, rebukes himself for talking aloud. In Mr. Henry 
Arthur Jones's "Middleman," the soliloquy and the 
aside are used without question, and with no anticipa- 
tion that they were so soon to fall out of fashion. In 
these modern plays, they are employed as they had 
been utilized in the medieval drama, as well as in the 
tragedies and comedies of the Greeks and Romans. 

Perhaps the French writer on the German drama is 
justified in believing that the doom of the soliloquy is 


sealed and that the sentence of banishment has been 
pronounced on the aside. But his dislike for them 
expressed in 1905 is diametrically opposed to the lik- 
ing confessed in 1684 by the English translator of 
the Abbe d'Aubignac's " Pratique du Theatre." The 
translation is ingenuously entitled "The Whole Art of 
the Stage, containing not only the Rules of the Dra- 
matick Art, but many curious Observations about it"; 
and one of these curious observations is the confession 
" that it is sometimes very pleasant to see a man upon 
the Stage lay open his heart and speak boldly of his 
most secret thoughts, explain his designs, and give a 
vent to all that his passion suggests." The French au- 
thor had deduced his principles of the dramaturgic art, 
partly from the practice of the ancients, and partly 
from his own examination of what gave pleasure to a 
French audience in the days of Louis XIV. He had 
noted that the soul-unveiling soliloquy was welcome 
in the dramas of his own contemporaries, and he had 
discovered it to be freely employed in the plays of 
Plautus also. And for two centuries or more, this con- 
vention was found convenient by the composer of plays 
and acceptable to the audience. Then, in the final years 
of the nineteenth century, we observe the dramatists 
discarding it hastily, and the spectators crying out 
against an outworn trick unworthy of a self-respecting 
workman. Why this unexpected change of attitude 
on the part of playwright and playgoer alike? What 
had happened to open their eyes to the obvious fact 
that the soliloquy was "unnatural" ? Now, to find the 
answer to these questions we need to take a long glance 
back over the history of the theater. As the drama of 
the Greeks was an outgrowth of their song, we might 


expect to observe in their plays a freedom of lyric self- 
expression; and in iEschylus, for example, we hear 
the bound Prometheus proclaim his woes to the wintry 
sky, before the winged chariot brings the daughters 
of ocean to comfort his windy solitude. Even in Sopho- 
cles, certain of the longer speeches of the chief char- 
acters, although delivered after the chorus has circled 
into the orchestra, are rather spoken at large than 
addressed directly to this band of courteous listeners. 
In the classicist tragedy of the French, the chorus has 
shrunk to a single attendant for each of the chief fig- 
ures. Thus in Racine's masterpiece, Phedre is ever 
accompanied by (Enone, Aricie by Ismene, and Hip- 
polyte by Theramene, and to these they can unbosom 
themselves freely, the wily poet thus avoiding the sem- 
blance of the soliloquy while profiting by all its ad- 
vantages. These confidants are colorless creatures, 
sketched in vague outline only and existing for the 
sole purpose of being talked to. Mere shadows of their 
masters and mistresses, they share the same fate; and 
in the tragedy which is rehearsed in Sheridan's " Critic," 
where the heroine goes mad in white satin, the con- 
fidant unhesitatingly goes mad in white muslin. The 
confidant was one of the outward and visible signs 
which excited the special detestation of the ardent 
romanticists of 1830. Victor Hugo dismissed these 
pale figures from his dramas ; and the exuberant lyrist 
was thereby driven back to the soliloquy. The argu- 
mentative monologue which he bestowed on the king 
in "Hernani" is one of the longest soliloquies discov- 
erable in all dramatic literature. This introspective 
oration is a superb specimen of Hugo's swelling rheto- 
ric, splendid and stately with soaring figures of speech. 


In his " New Art of Making Plays," Lope de Vega 
discussed the various stanzas and suggested that the 
sonnet was suitable for a soliloquy, — a suggestion 
which raises a very pretty question as to whether the 
artificiality of the soliloquy itself might not be dis- 
guised by the artificiality of the form in which it was 
presented. An arbitrary interweaving of rimes recall- 
ing the structure of the true sonnet is to be found more 
than once in the earlier plays of Shakspere, wherein 
we may readily detect the delight of the young poet in 
mere verbal ingenuity. But Shakspere was a practical 
playwright, up to every kind of trick of his trade, and 
making his profit out of every convention acceptable 
to his audiences. The soliloquy was far too convenient 
a device to be given up; and probably the thought 
never entered Shakspere's head that he could get along 
without it. 

In scarcely any of his strongest plays, has he taken 
more trouble with his plot, with its structure, with its 
conduct, than he has in "Othello"; and in scarcely 
any other is the soliloquy more frequently employed. 
He uses it again and again to let lago reveal his own 
villainy, as though he did not want the turbulent 
groundlings to be in any doubt as to the wickedness of 
his honest lago. And so it is that at the end of the first 
act, lago simply talks aloud to the audience, frankly 
taking them into his confidence and exposing his own 
dark designs. In the middle of the second act, and 
again at the end of that act, lago explains his schemes 
to the spectators, as his plans take shape in his foul 

As lago is the incomparable villain of the master 
of the English stage, so is TartuflFe the incomparable 


villain of the master of the French stage ; and it must 
be confessed that MoHere is able to make his hypocrite 
transparent without the aid of a single soliloquy or 
a single aside. Disclaiming these artless devices, he 
so contrives his story that we cannot help knowing 
Tartuflfe for what he really is, long before we first hear 
his voice, and here Moliere reveals himself as truly 
modern, whereas Shakspere, having accepted the Eliza- 
bethan tradition as he found it, is perforce semi-me- 
dieval in his methods. 

But often Moliere is no more logical in his use of 
the soliloquy than Shakspere is. Neither the French 
dramatist nor the English made any distinction .be- 
tween that soliloquy which reveals the character and 
that which informs us as to the facts of the plot. Both 
held that the soliloquy was equally pleasing, no matter 
whether it was merely supplying information which 
a more scrupulous playwright would have conveyed 
to the audience by s6me less arbitrary contrivance, or 
whether it displayed before us the conflicting emotions 
of a hero at the crisis of his fate, not possible to be 
made known except out of his own mouth. Yet the 
distinction between these two purposes for which the 
soliloquy may be used, ought to be obvious enough, 
even if it was not seized by Moliere and Shakspere. 

Nowadays, playwrights are forced to find a better 
way for a character to "explain his designs" than to 
leave him alone on the stage, so that he can tell the 
spectators what he is going to do. Such a proceeding 
seems a little too easy to be quite worth while ; and the 
soliloquy which merely transmits information to the 


audience can be defended only with diflSculty. But 
the soliloquy in which a character speaks "boldly of 
his most secret thoughts" stands on a higher plane. 
It lets a tortured hero uiipack his heart; it opens a 
window into his soul ; and it gives the spectator a plea- 
sure not to be had otherwise. It allows us to listen to 
the communing of a character with himself, as though 
we were not overhearing what he is saying. Professor 
Bradley has remarked, in his stimulating discussion of 
"Shaksperean Tragedy," that "in listening to a so- 
liloquy we ought never to feel that we are being ad- 
dressed." He declared that in this respect, as in others, 
many of Shakspere's soliloquies are masterpieces; but 
he admitted that "in some the purpose of giving in- 
formation lies bare, and in one or two the actor openly 
speaks to the audience." And Moliere is as vulnerable 
to this reproof as Shakspere. 

The fact is that when Shakspere and Moliere came 
to the theater, they found the soliloquy a labor-saving 
contrivance that they took over without bestowing a 
thought on the principle underlying it. This principle, 
if formally declared, would be that the soliloquy is a 
means of exposing to the spectators the actual thoughts 
of a character when he is alone. In other words, an 
actor soliloquizing must be supposed to be thinking 
aloud. But so little did either Shakspere or Moliere 
care for the principle involved, that both of them 
unhesitatingly set before us a character soliloquizing 
and yet overheard by some other character. This is 
a contradiction in terms, if we analyze it philosophi- 
cally, — but that is exactly what was not attempted by 
either of these great dramatists or by any of the play- 
goers of their times. What to us may seem an arrant 


absurdity is to be found as early as Terence and as 
late as Beaumarchais. Shakspere lets Romeo overhear 
Juliet's soliloquizing on the balcony; and Moliere is 
as careless in the "Miser." 

There was a clever man once who justified his habit 
of talking to himself by two good reasons, — he liked to 
talk to a man of sense and he liked to hear a man of 
sense talk. It is in the " Miserables" that Victor Hugo 
tried to justify the monologue by one bad reason; he 
declared that it was an error to believe that the solilo- 
quy was not natural, since "often a strong agitation 
speaks out loud." But a strong agitation does not 
speak out loud a speech of a hundred lines and more, 
as the King does in "Hernani." There is no advan- 
tage in maintaining that the soliloquy is " natural." 
It is not; and no more is blank verse or highly con- 
densed prose. As Professor Bradley has remarked: 
"Neither soliloquy nor the use of verse can be con- 
demned on the mere ground that it is unnatural. No 
dramatic language is natural." 

It may seem strange that audiences which still ad- 
mit without protest many another convention quite 
as contrary to the actual fact, should have awakened 
suddenly to the lack of verisimilitude in the soliloquy. 
They accept it without cavil in "Rip Van Winkle," 
in one act of which no voice is heard but Rip's 
talking to himself or speaking to the dumb specters. 
They accept it again in a protean piece like the one- 
act "Dick Turpin," in which all the parts are as- 
sumed by the same actor, and which is necessarily 
nothing but a succession of monologues. But they 
are annoyed when the characters in a modern play of 
real life take the liberty of soliloquizing, because both 


authors and audiences have discovered that it is out 
of place on the picture-frame stage of to-day, how- 
ever appropriate it may have been to the platform- 
stage of yesterday. The dramatist can utilize it now 
only at his peril ; at best he can use it on rare occa- 
sions and very briefly, merely to give a fleeting glimpse 
of the speaker's deeper emotion. If it is boldly em- 
ployed in the fashion formerly acceptable, it will revolt 
us by what we now see to be its flagrant incompati*- 
bility with the conditions of the modern theater. It 
will probably survive as a tradition in the poetic drama, 
where we are glad always to listen to noble thoughts 
loftily phrased. It may even linger also in the lighter 
forms of comedy, where we shall not sharply feel its 
incongruity, because we do not take these humorous 
pieces seriously. 



Hamlet is a name; his speeches and sayings but the idle coinage 
of the poet's brain. What, then, are they not real ? They are as real 
as our own thoughts. Their reality is in the reader's mind. It is t^ 
who are Hamlet. This play has a prophetic truth, which is above 
that of history. Whoever has become thoughtful and melancholy 
through his own mishaps or those of others ; whoever has borne about 
with him the clouded brow of reflection, and thought himself ** too 
much i' th' sun" ; whoever hais seen the golden lamp of day dinuned 
by envious mists rising in his own breast, and could find in the world 
before him only a dull blank with nothing left remarkable in it; 
whoever has known ** the pangs of despised love, the insolence of 
oflSce, or the spurns which patient merit of the unworthy takes"; he 
who has felt his mind sink within him, and sadness cling to his heart 
like a malady, who has had his hopes blighted and his youth stag- 
gered by the apparitions of strange things; who cannot be well at 
ease, while he sees evil hovering near him like a specter; whose 
powers of action have been eaten up by thought, he to whom the 
universe seems infinite, and himself nothing; whose bitterness of 
soul makes him careless of consequences, and who goes to a play as 
his best resource to shove off, to a second remove, the evils of life by 
a mock representation of them — this is the true Hamlet. — Wil- 
liam Hazlitt, The Characters of Shakspere*s Plays. 

For immediate success on the stage, a play must have 
a story strong enough to arouse and retain the interest 
of the spectators ; and it is characteristic of Aristotle's 
shrewdness that he seized this fact firmly, and de- 
clared it sharply more than two thousand years ago, 
with only his experience in the Attic theater to guide 
him. But while a suflBcient story is a prerequisite to 


immediate success, it will bestow only a fleeting popu- 
larity, if the play is not peopled by characters that lin- 
ger in the memory independently of the action in which 
they have been presented. Taste in stories varies from 
century to century and from country to country, and the 
number of possible situations is so strictly limited that 
the most the new dramatist can do is to shuffle the old 
plots and to carry them on with new characters. But 
human nature is much the same the wide world over, 
and generation after generation. A character which 
has once impressed itself upon the contemporaries of 
the author as vital and significant has a chance of long 
life; and in the final analysis, it is by his power of pro- 
jecting characters that the dramatist survives. 

On the plot, on the situations, on the sequence of 
events, which the playwright needs first of all to win 
the favor of the throng, he must expend his invention, 
and he must be as ingenious as may be in adroit dis- 
vices to sustain the interest of his story. On the char- 
acters who live and move inside this plot, he must 
bestow the best of his imagination; and into them, 
he must breathe the breath of life, so that they will 
exist for us long after we have lost our liking for the 
kind of story in which they originally figured. To us 
nowadays, the central incidents of the " Merchant of 
Venice" are unconvincing, not to call them puerile; but 
Shylock is an unforgettable figure, as alive to-day as 
when he first strode on the stage of the Globe Theater. 
The plot of the "Winter's Tale" is a tissue of absurdi- 
ties ; but the young loves of Perdita and Florizel still 
enchant us because they are eternally human. In the 
"Merchant of Venice," we tolerate the impossibility 
of the situation;? for the sake of the central character; 


and we are almost as lenient toward the "Winter's 
Tale," although its characters do not loom so large in 
our memories. A story of some sort, there must be; 
but we reserve our warmest regard for the men and 
the women who carry it on. It is by veracity of char- 
acter delineation, by subtlety of psychology, that the 
great plays are great. It is by this power of creating 
living and breathing human beings, recognizable fellow- 
creatures with ourselves, that the playwright estab- 
lishes his title to be considered truly a dramatist. If 
he lacks this power, if he cannot leave behind him 
characters that the next generation will recognize and 
relish, then his reputation is fleeting; he exists by 
virtue of his plots only, and these the playwrights of 
the next generation will surely make over in accord 
with the changing tastes of their own time. 
r^ Yet the dramatist is strictly limited in his means of 
; presenting his characters. He can show them only as 
they appear to their associates. He can put them be- 
fore us only by what they say and by what they do; 
and he cannot explain or extenuate any word or any 
deed. These things must speak for themselves, since 
the dramatist is forced to keep himself out of his story, 
and since he is denied all privilege of comment. Here 
is perhaps the most striking difference between the 
play and the novel. The novelist can chat to his 
readers about his characters; he can tell us not only 
what they say and what they do, but also what they 
think; he can go further, if he so chooses, and let us 
know what he thinks of them and what he wants us 
to think of them. 

Much of the charm of Thackeray's novels, for in- 
stance, is due to the incessant intervention of the 


author and to the confidential commentary in which 
the action of the story is constantly immersed. We may 
like this method of Thackeray's or we may prefer 
the sterner impartiality of Balzac; but to no play- 
wright is anything of the sort permitted. In the thea- 
ter, no comment is possible, no foot-notes, no sign-post 
hands. On the stage, every character must stand on 
his own feet and speak for himself ; he must justify him- 
self out of his own mouth and by his own deeds ; and 
if he is supposed to be shrewd and clever, he must 
prove his shrewd cleverness in the sight of us all, for 
we will not believe it unless we see it. If he is called 
witty, we refuse to credit this, except on the evidence 
of our own ears. If we behold him guilty of a contemp- 
tible act, the author can urge no specious argument 
to make us overlook it. The characters stand before 
us on the stage, and they are what they are, not what 
the author might like us to believe them to be. 

In spite of this limitation of his methods of repre- 
senting character, — perhaps it may be, more or less 
because of them, — the dramatist makes a virtue of 
necessity and brings before us human beings who de- 
clare themselves clearly by what they say and by what 
they do. Hamlet and Othello are as real to us as Don 
Quixote; and Becky Sharp is not moire alive than Lady 
Teazle. The genius of Moliere is great enough to de- 
pict in a play a hypocrite, Tartuflfe, who never drops the 
mask of assumed piety, and whom we know for what 
he is, even before we have heard his voice. Indeed, if 
we call the roll of imaginary characters who crowd our 
memories, we are likely to find that at least half of 
them belong to the drama. The (Edipus of Sophocles 
and the Medea of Euripides are as distinct in our re- 


membranoe as the Achilles of Homer and the Dido of 
Vergil. The task of bodying forth these characters 
may have been more diflBicult in the dramas than it 
was in the epics; but b^ond all question, it has been 
as satisfactorily accomplished. 

The character revecds himself to the spectators by 

what he says and by what he does. He exists by his 

actions; he exists first of all, for the sake of the plot of 

the play, and only secondly for his own sake. And we 

may go furth^ and suggest that the dramatist often 

takes little thought about those parts of the career of 

any one of his characters, which are not directly con- 

r necled with the special story in which iliey appear, and 

, wUdi do not lie within the play wherein tliat char- 

\ acter figures. The character is what he must be in 

I that drama; but how he came to be that kind of crea- 

1 ture, the dramatist does not trouble to tell us ; he may 

/ not know, and he may not care. What the characters 

are inside his play, the dramatist is intensely interested 

in ; but what they may have been or what they will be 

outside of his play, he does not ask. 

Especially is this true of Moliere. Who was Tar- 
tuflfe, before his sinister shadow crossed the threshold of 
Orgon's happy home ? What misdeeds had he been 
already guilty of and what misadventures had he air 
ready met ? Moliere does not tell us ; and very likely 
he could not have told us. Probably he would have 
explained that it did not matter, since Tartuflfe is what 
he is ; he is what we see him ; we have only to look 
at him and to listen to him to know all we need to 
know about him. And who was Celimene, the young 
widow who drove the Misanthrope to despair ? What 
was her family ? What was her education ? Who was 


her first husband ? When did he die ? These are ques- 
tions Moliere is not moved to answer. Celimfene is 
alive, as TartuflFe was alive ; that is enough for their 
creator. Molifere's characters emerge into view, full- 
grown and full-blooded; they play their parts in the 
plot ; and then the curtain falls and that is the last we 
see of them. 

Here, as in so many other aspects, Shakspere is at 
one with Molifere. We find the melancholy Jaques in 
the Forest of Arden, moralizing at large and bandy- 
ing repartees with a chance clown ; he talks and we 
know him at once, as wfe know a man we have met 
many times. But who is he ? What is his rank ? Where 
does he come from ? What brought him so far afield 
and so deep into the greenwood ? Shakspere leaves us 
in the dark as to all these things; and perhaps he was 
in the dark himself. Jaques is needed where we find 
him, in the play with the Banished Duke and his men; 
and there Shakspere put him, conceived all of a piece 
and all of a sudden, for this special purpose. And 
lago, who is he? How came such an incomparable 
villain to be intimate with Othello ? How was it that 
he had many friends among the foremost men of 
Venice? Where had he met and married Emilia? 
How was it that his wife was the attendant of Des- 
demona ? These things Shaksp^*e does not delay to 
explain; he takes them for granted; they are because 
they are; and lago, being what he is in the play, it 
matters little what he was before the play began. 

Before writing a novel, Turgenieflf used to set down 
the exact and detailed biography of every character 
who was to appear in his story, thus deciding in advance 
their antecedents, their birth, their education, and their 


relations to each other previous to the beginning of 
the tale in which they were all to take part. No doubt, 
other novelists have found it profitable to make use of 
similar devices ; but to a dramatist, such particulariza- 
tion would seem needless. His characters appear to 
him moving and talking; he puts them into his play 
alive; and there they are once for all. He asks them 
no questions as to the existence they must have led 
before they came on the stage to play their parts in 
his piece. 

Mrs. Jameson wrote a charming and fanciful book 
on the " Girlhood of Shakspere's Heroines," in which 
she tri^ to reconstruct the home-life in which each 
of these delightful creatures had flowered into woman- 
hood, — Portia and Rosalind, Beatrice and Ophelia. 
She was ingenious in amplifying what seemed to her 
the hints that Shakspere let fall. Her work is proof 
that the great poet was able to evoke characters so 
interesting that we want to know more about them 
than he has chosen to tell us. But, after all, pleasant 
as her labor was, it was futile. Portia and Rosalind, 
Beatrice and Ophelia live in the plays in which they 
appear; they came into being for that purpose and 
for that purpose only. And probably, if it could come 
to his knowledge, no single one of all the immense 
number of books which have been written about his 
plays would be more likely to bring a smile to Shak- 
spere's face than this affectionate tribute of Mrs. 

These girl-heroines of Shakspere, and all the other 
characters, male and female, who inhabit his plays, are 
self-explanatory. We accept them at first sight, without 
hesitation. We recognize their humanity and their 


vitality, although it is only a fleeting glinipse of a frag- 
ment of their lives that we are allowed. Limited 
though our vision may be, the opportunity is ade- 
quate for Shakspere, as it is for Sophocles and for Mo- 
liere, and for all the other masters of the drama, each 
in his own fashion. The characters they set before us 
on the stage seem to us full, rounded, and complete. 
We feel that we are acquainted with the chief of these 
characters as we do not feel ourselves acquainted with 
our intimate friends. We know all we need to know 
about them, for we can guess in advance what they 
will do in the hour of trial. We anticipate their emo- 
tions and their acts at the moment of stress. We do 
not doubt that they will be true to themselves. 

We feel this even when these characters are super- 
natural, when they are outside any possible experience 
that we could have had in this mortal life. Shakspere, 
for example, delights in ghosts and in witches and in 
fairies ; and once, at least, in Caliban, he invites us to 
behold a strange, uncanny, abnormal being only half- 
human. And yet we never question the propriety of 
these weird creatures, each of whom obeys the law 
of its own being. They may be beyond nature, as we 
apprehend it, but they never strike us as unnatural. 
Where Shakspere seems most to recede from humanity, 
so Charles Lamb declared, " he will be found the near- 
est to it. From beyond the scope of nature if he sum- 
mons possible existences, he subjugates them to the law 
of her consistency. He is beautifully loyal to that kind 
of sovereign directness even when he seems most to 
detest her. Caliban, the Witches, are as true to the 
laws of their own nature (ours with a difference) as 
Othello, Hamlet, Macbeth." 



Vital as the chief characters are in the major plays 
of the leading dramatists, existing independently of the 
plot, as they seem to do when we think about them, 
every one of them is not only a. character but also a 
part composed for execution by an actor, — often by 
some one particular actor to whose capacity it was 
skilfully adjusted, — Burbage or Coquelin, Mile, de 
Champmesle or Mile, de Moliere. In the plays of the 
inferior playwrights, there are parts only, and these 
parts depend for their individuality upon the his- 
trionic power of the performers. In the plays of the 
superior dramatists, these parts, adjusted conscien- 
tiously to the actors, are also characters whose abiding 
life is detached from the performer and even from the 
play itself. As parts, they may have been enlarged or 
limited to fit themselves to the cotnedian or the trage- 
dian to whom they were first intrusted when the piece 
was originally acted; but as characters, they so im- 
press themselves upon us that we do not necessarily 
think of the stage when we consider them. 

What special aspects and attributes of any character 
the author shall set before us, must always be decided 
by the situations of the piece in which that character 
is to figure. This is made plain when we find a drama- 
tist presenting the same character to us in successive 
plays, for we cannot help discovering that the charac- 
ter is never quite identical in both pieces. Sophocles 
represents Creon in "CEdipus" and in "Antigone"; 
and the character is distinctly different in the later 
play, with a difference not to be accounted for by the 
lapse of time and by the strain of the passing years. 
The later Creon varies from the earlier Creon, because 


the plots of the two plays are unlike, and because he 
cannot be exactly the same person in all his charac- 
teristics in the one piece that he was in the other. 
When Shakspere showed the fat knight in love, it was 
a sadly shorn Falstaff which the plot of the " Merry 
Wives" forced him to bring before us. The action of 
that farce, the arbitrary sequence of its comic situa- 
tions, compelled the dramatist to let us see a Falstaff 
who is only a shrunken copy of the superb figure that 
swaggered through the earlier chronicle-play. And 
Molifere acted Sganarelle in half a dozen different 
pieces, in no two of which is he exactly the same being. 

In their broad outlines, the two Creons, the two Fal- 
staffs and the half-dozen Sganarelles are alike, but 
they differ in many minor traits, sometimes even con- 
tradicting the characteristics they had when they first 
appeared before the public. And it would not be dif- 
ficult to show that these divergencies are the direct 
result of the plots of the later plays. Even if the 
dramatist had wanted to make these creatures of his 
imagination retain all their original characteristics, he 
could not very well have done so, since the original 
plot and the original character are intertwined and in- 
terwoven so inextricably that, when the characters are 
disentangled from this first plot to be immeshed in an- 
other series of complications, they have to adjust them- 
selves to these new conditions. They cannot help being 
subdued to what they work in. On the stage, the au- 
thor can show us the character only, as it is involved 
in the action ; and the action itself decides just how 
much of the character can be shown, and what aspects 
of it are to be emphasized. 

In every really important play, the characters make ] 


( the plot, and the story is what it is merely because the 
^ characters are what they are. Yet after all, the char- 
acters are only and can be only what the plot permits 
them to be. The conjunction of c haracter an d action 
is^4io~diance mechanical mixture; it js-j:aJiier_an jnti- 
matechemicaLunion. Character and plot are not set 
^\[silie_B^^M de ; they ^ tfftjinited ; each exists for th e sa ke 
ofjhe other ajid in comb ination with -^ieLOther. This 
is perhaps the reason — or at least one of the reasons 
— why the dramatist knows and cares little about his 
characters except as they reveal themselves in the situ- 
ations of his play. He cares intensely about what they 
are and what they do and what they say, while they 
are on the stage in his play. What they may be, or 
what they may have done or said at other times, he 
cares little. They have their significance for him only 
within the framework of his drama. 

It is but a small portion of the life of any character 
that the dramatist can show ; and if we seek to deduce 
the whole man from the part the author has chosen 
to present in action before us, we need a minute know- 
ledge of human nature and a constructive imagination, 
like Cuvier's when he demonstrated his ability to re- 
constitute an unknown animal from a few fragmentary 
bones. And when we are tempted to this adventure, 
we shall do well to remember that Cuvier was bring- 
ing to life again a being before unknown, whereas the 
great characters of the great plays are already as well 
known to us as they are ever likely to be. We may 
amuse ourselves by following in the footsteps of Mrs. 
Jameson, but the exercise must be its own reward ; and 
we do well to be on our guard against overestimating 
its importance. 



Stevenson once told a friend that he knew only three 
ways of making a story. One might start with a group 
of characters and devise a plot to exhibit them ; or one 
might begin with a plot and fit characters to this; or 
one might subordinate both plot and characters to a 
special atmosphere, which was to be realized and made 
impressive. In the theater, this third method is im- 
possible, since atmosphere alone is insufficient to hold 
the attention of the throng. The other two methods 
are available for the playwright ; and there is no diffi- 
culty in adducing examples of plays composed in ac- 
cord with the one or the other of these methods. The 
"Bourgeois Gentilhomme," for example, is plainly a 
piece in the conception of which the author began with 
the character of M. Jourdain ; having this central figure 
clearly in mind, Moliere devised situations specially 
to set ofif the several facets of M. Jourdain's person- 
ality. Indeed, so intense was Moli^re's interest in this 
character, which he was elaborating for his own acting, 
that he was a little careless in the putting together of 
the plot wherein the ambitious burgher is presented; 
and as a result, the actual story of the play does not 
get under way until the third act, the two earlier acts 
having been taken up with the exhibiting of the foibles 
and personal peculiarities of M. Jourdain. In the 
"Bourgeois Gentilhomme,*' we cannot help feeling 
that Moliere did not take trouble enough to find a 
plot proper for the full display of his central character ; 
at least, we are compelled to confess that in this piece 
he has sacrificed plot to character. 

In the great Greek tragedies, we discover the results 
of the other method, that of taking a story ready-made 


and of fitting characters to it. In fact, this method was 
more or less imposed on the writers of Attic tragedy 
by, the recognized demand upon them to select their 
themes from one or another of the many legends which 
were held to be the best material for the purposes of 
the theatrical poet. Thus the Athenian dramatist, 
whatever story he might choose to handle, found his 
freedom circumscribed by the public expectation that 
he should not depart too widely from the sequence of 
events consecrated by tradition. The details of in- 
cident he might vary at will ; but the main lines of his 
story were laid down for him before he began. As 
soon as he had announced his subject, the spectators 
knew in advance the successive episodes which he was 
at liberty to represent. He might suppress some of 
these episodes, and he might make others more sig- 
nificant than any of his predecessors had done; but 
he was not at liberty to contradict the legend as it had 
been transmitted from earlier generations. 

As a result of this limitation of the themes of tragedy 
to a prescribed body of traditional tales, the drama- 
tists were compelled to treat the same subjects again 
and again. Every poet was familiar with the plays 
which various of his predecessors had written on any 
subject he might undertake, and he was well aware 
that his successors would make use of the same sub- 
ject, each in turn modifying it to suit his mood. The 
treatment of the theme was therefore all-important, 
since the playwright-poet could not profit by absolute 
novelty of story. Probably the Attic dramatists felt 
always that they were working in a severe competition 
with their predecessors and with their successors; 
and very likely this put them on their mettle and kept 


them up to the mark. They had to take a twice-told 
tale and interpret it anew ; they had to revive the faded 
figures of the legend and to give fresh meaning to the 
old story; and this is what the greatest of them did 
with unfailing felicity. iEschylus and Sophocles wrote 
tragedies on these traditional themes and under these 
restrictions, in which there is no suggestion of con- 
straint. The "Agamemnon" and the "CEdipus"seem 
to us to have been wrought with the utmost freedom; 
and their plots appear to be only the logical result of ' 
the interrelation of the several characters. 

The same praise may be bestowed also upon Shak- 
spere. If there ever was a play in which character seems 
to condition plot, in which the action is what it is only 
because the central figure is what he is, that play is 
** Hamlet." In this tragedy, all the successive situar 
tions are the result of the special characteristics of the 
hero. If we did not know better, we might well be- 
lieve that Shakspere had first conceived Hamlet, and 
then cast about him for a story in which that charac- 
ter might be revealed. But we do know better; we 
are aware that this was not the case and that the plot 
of "Hamlet" had been constructed by an earlier play- 
wright, possibly Kyd, who had seen fit to make a mere 
melodrama of it, a violent tragedy-of-blood, full of 
broad theatricalism, certain to please the strong-nerved 
playgoing public of those tumultuous days. This 
tragedy-of -blood Shakspere took for his own, and made 
it his own, partly by purging away some of its grosser 
effects and partly by elevating the character of Hamlet 
to his own loftiest level. Apparently, he did not ac- 
complish this all at once; finding the theme congenial, 
he returned to it again and again, as though it were 


a labor of love. He gave "Hamlet" revision after re- 
vision until he had put himself into it amply, and until 
he had so ennobled it that it was the richest expres- 
sion of his genius. What he found a coarse melodrama, 
he left the most intellectual of tragedies, — the play 
in which he seemed most abundantly to have voiced 
himself. He took over another man's invention and 
transfigured it by his own superb imagination. 

What iEschylus and Sophocles had done with 
"Agamenmon" and "(Edipus," and what Shakspere 
did with " Hamlet," Moliere did with " Don Juan." 
The skeleton of his great play did not diflfer very much 
from that of the Spanish piece from which he derived 
it more or less indirectly ; but its meaning, its vitality, 
its final value, these qualities it owed to Moliere, as 
indisputably as "Hamlet" was indebted to Shakspere 
for its enduring power. And this is evidence that it 
matters little where the dramatist actually begins, 
whether with plot or with character. What does mat- 
ter is where he ends, whether the resultant play pre- 
sents a story wherein the characters are merely the 
creatures of the plot, or a story wherein the plot seems 
to be subordinate to character. It is by the final result 
that the dramatist must be judged, and not by his 
original choice of a method of procedure. 

The leading characters in the great plays are all 
good parts, forever tempting to the ambitious actor. 
Although they may have been devised originally for 
some one performer contemporary with the author, 
they transcend the limitation of this actor's personal- 
ity. They are not mere profiles; they are rounded 
figures to be approached from all the points of the 
compass; and therefore they are open to a wide va- 


riety of interpretation by later actors. In fact, the au- 
thor would often be surprised to discover that a char- 
acter which he imagined for a performer of a special 
tjrpe, might be taken successfully by a performer of an 
entirely different temperament. 

Perhaps the most obvious illustration of this is to 
be found in the stage-history of the " School for Scan- 
dal." Sheridan fitted the parts in this comedy to the 
company he had inherited from Garrick, and no one 
of them was more closely adjusted to the special per- 
former than the character of Lady Teazle, which was 
intended for Mrs. Abington. Lady Teazle is a country- 
girl who has become a woman of fashion ; and Mrs. 
Abington was the incomparable representative of the 
fine ladies of high-comedy. But when Mrs. Abington 
retired, Lady Teazle was undertaken by Mrs. Jordan, 
whose reputation had been made by the performance 
of romps and hoydens. Mrs. Abington had seen in 
Lady Teazle only the woman of fashion ; and Mrs. 
Jordan saw in Lady Teazle rather the country-girl 
who was aping the airs and graces of a fine lady. This 
second interpretation of the character was probably 
not at all what Sheridan had intended; but he had 
builded better than he knew and the character was 
richer in variety than he had supposed. In its way, 
Mrs. Jordan's performance of the part was quite as 
effective as Mrs. Abington's had been. The character 
which can be seen from only one angle is as thin as a 
silhouette. It lacks the rotundity of reality. 

What is true of characters in comedy, is true also of 
characters in tragedy. lago, for example, was played 
by Edwin Booth as the steely incarnation of evil, pur- 
suing his malignant purpose with indomitable will. 


But othrr actors have diosen to presoit rather the 
bluff, hearty, soldieriT side of ** honest lago/' and thus 
to giTe greater plausibilitr to Othdlo's confidence in 
him. And Lewes, who saw them both, dwdt on the 
extraordinarv differences which existed between the 


Othello of Salvini and the Othello of Sdmund Kean. 
The English actor was impetuous, fiery, volcanic, 
where the Italian was stately, massive, and overwhelm- 
ing. As wide a gulf yawned between the Hamlet of 
Fechter on the one hand, and the Hamlet of Booth 
and of Irving on the other. What Fechter saw in the 
play was chiefly the immensely effective series of situa- 
tions ; and he treated it as if it was a melodrama only. 
Booth and Irving made the situations subordinate to 
the poetry they felt in the hero; they diminished the 
violence of the plot as far as possible and bathed the 
performance in melancholy beauty. 

Consider also Jaques in " As You Like It," and ask 
how he ought to be played. Is he a bitter cynic railing 
against the world and venting his venom on all man- 
kind, the ultimate type of misanthropic pessimism ? 
Or is he a humorist, always exaggerating his feelings 
and often saying far more than he means, certain in 
advance that his associates will not take him seriously, 
— certain, indeed, that they will be readier to smile at 
his utterances the more extravagant his speech may 
be ? Either of these interpretations is in accord with 
the language which Shakspere has put into the mouth 
of Jaques; and it is by this language only that the 
character reveals himself. We have no other informa- 
tion about him ; he must be judged by what he says ; 
and what he says may be interpreted in these two 
wholly inconsistent ways. 


We can know a character in a play only by what 
he says and by what he does. Jaques, as it happens, 
does nothing; his function in the comedy is merely to 
talk. And the remarks of the other characters in "As 
You Like It" throw no light on his enigmatic char- 
acter. Probably Shakspere did not intend these con- 
tradictory interpretations ; probably he meant Jaques 
to be clearly perceived for what he is. But Shakspere 
so projected the character that the other interpreta- 
tion — whichever this may be — is quite as accept- 
able now as that which he did intend. In Jaques, 
as in lago and Othello, as in Hamlet, Shakspere en- 
dowed his character with the complexity of a living 
human being, whose peculiarities of conduct and of 
speech we may discuss as we analyze those of one of 
our own intimates. The character is alive; and like 
all living things, it is infinitely various, taking on dif- 
ferent aspects in the eyes of different observers. 

This variety and this complexity in the representa- 
tion of character may not be the result of the deliberate 
aim of the dramatist ; but he deserves the credit for it, 
none the less, since he did it, even if he did not mean to 
do it and even if he did not know that he was doing it. 
Perhaps he may have supposed that he was giving to 
the creature of his imagination only the limited vitality 
demanded by the plot, and yet his imagination may 
have endowed this creature with a larger life and with a 
richer personality than the story called for. The more 
vigorous his imagination and the deeper his insight 
into human nature, the more likely is he to perform this 
marvel all unwittingly. The artist who always does 
his best often does better than the best he intended ; by 
sheer integrity of effort, he is able to surpass himself. 



This guerdon is granted only to the true dramatist, 
and it is not bestowed upon the mere playwright. The 
inferior craftsman, however adroit and ingenious he 
may be, is not distinguished by fecundating imagina- 
tion ; and in his plays, the characters do not disclose 
themselves as more human than he had intended. In 
fact, the mere playwright does not create character; 
the most he can do is to devise effective parts for spe- 
cial performers ; these parts derive their fleeting vital- 
ity from the actors who sustain them. In default of 
the creative imagination, the mere playwright is forced 
to rely on his plot rather than on his characters. The 
mechanism of the action, which is of only secondary 
importance in the plays of the true dramatists, is of 
primary importance in the pieces of the playwrights. 
Kotzebue, for example, and Scribe, displayed a most 
prolific inventiveness in devising situations; but no 
character from any one of their plays lingers in the 
memory. After beholding one of their pieces, we re- 
call what the various personages did, but we have no 
definite impression as to what these personages are. 

Kotzebue's characters, and Scribe's also, exist only 
in connection with the plots of the plays in which they 
appear; they were called into being for the sake of 
the plot; they are sufficient to carry on the action, and 
outside of that special story, they have no validity. 
This is the reason why Kotzebue and Scribe are no 
longer read; and their marvelous dexterity in stage- 
craft has not kept alive any single one out of all their 
scores of plays. 

Even in the most flourishing periods of theatrical 
productivity, the true dramatists are only a few; and 


the immense majority of those who supply the theater 
are mere playwrights. These playwrights rely on 
their plots to please the public ; and if the stories they 
narrate in action are interesting enough in themselves, 
the characters may be the stock-figures of the theater, 
which the public seems willing to accept generation 
after generation. There is the young hero, very young 
and very heroic, blameless and self-sacrificing. There 
is the lovely heroine, equally exalted in sentiment and 
equally addicted to self-sacrifice. There is the smiling 
villain, who sticks at nothing to accomplish his fell 
purpose and who hates everybody — except the hero- 
ine. There is the cantankerous mother-in-law. exhaling 
her scorn upon the unfortunate man who was unlucky 
enough to marry her daughter. There is the comic 
servant, perpetually blundering in his misunderstand- 
ing of his master's orders. There is the stem father, 
implacable in his determination to force his son or 
his daughter into the marriage he has arranged, re- 
gardless of love's young dream. 

These are only a few of the traditional figures likely 
to reappear at any moment in a popular play. Figures 
equivalent to these are recognizable in the drama of 
every period. Latin comedy, for instance, took over 
from the Greek at least a dozen stock-figures which 
appear and reappear in play after play of Plautus and 
Terence. There was the greedy parasite, earning 
his dinner by gross flattery of his patron. There was 
the braggart coward, forever boasting of his exploits 
and yet keeping his skin whole, wherever his courage 
was challenged. There was the intriguing slave, who 
was prolific in ingenious methods for extracting money 
from his old master's pocket for the benefit of his young 


master, and who was untiring in running errands 
and in carrying love-letters. 

These stock-figures of Greek and Latin comedy re- 
appear again in the improvised play of the Italians, in 
the comedy-of -masks, which is one of the most interest- 
ing developments of the drama in all its long history. 
It was a development possible only among the Ital- 
ians, who are facile actors and who have the faculty of 
improvisation. A strolling troop consisted of perhaps 
a dozen performers, every one of whom impersonated 
always the same character, a stock-figure of unchang- 
ing peculiarities. One of them might be the young 
lover, Lelio, the same in name and in liature, what- 
ever the imbroglio in which he was involved. An- 
other might be Pantaleone, an old merchant, speaking 
the Venetian dialect. A third might be the Doctor, an 
elderly pedant, speaking the Bolognese dialect. Yet 
another might be Pulcinella, the rascally domestic, 
in(lefatif]jable in ingenious roguery, and speaking the 
Neapolitan dialect. And a fifth might be the Captain, 
the self-vaunting soldier, always boasting about his 
marvelous feats of valor. Of the women, one might 
be Leonora, the young and lovely heroine ; and another 
might be Isabella, her equally beautiful rival. A third 
might be Franceschina, the pert waiting-maid, as un- 
scrupulous as the intriguing valet with whom she was 
likely to pair off. If the company contained a performer 
of old women, this would be a man, who was bold in 
suggesting the least attractive attributes of elderly 
females. Add three or four other performers to fill in 
the less important f)ersonages, and we have a company 
competent to perform any plot without the aid of a 
written play and often without even a rehearsal. 


If the manager, who was likely to be also a leading 
actor as well as the deviser of the plots, had happened 
to read the Italian ston^ out of which Shakspere made 
"Romeo and Juliet," he might have " cast" it to such 
a company as this, discarding the tragic termination, 
emphasizing the romantic aspects and providing oppor- 
tunities for the clowning of the comedians. Panta- 
leone would have had a quarrel with the Doctor. Lelio 
would have been the son of Pantaleone, and Leonora 
would be the daughter of the Doctor. The man who 
played the " old women " would be the nurse of Leo- 
nora ; and the Captain would swagger as the cousin or 
brother of Leonora, whom Lelio would kill in a duel. 
. Franceschina would be the serving-maid of Leonora, 
and Pulcinella would be the valet of Lelio. The man- 
ager-author would call the company together and ex- 
plain to each the relation he was supposed to bear 
toward all the others. Then he would indicate the 
sequence of scenes in the several acts; and this sce- 
nario, as it was called, would be written out and pinned 
up behind the scenes. The play might begin with a 
violent altercation between Pantaleone and the Doctor ; 
but this would be no difficult demand upon either per- 
former, since they had often quarrelled in earlier plays. 
A little later might come a long love-scene for Lelio 
and Leonora : and this again would be no novelty, since 
he had been making love to her in almost every other 
piece since he joined the company. Lelio had in stock 
a dozen perfervid declarations of devotion; and Leo- 
nora had by experience a dozen different ways of re- 
ceiving his declaration. 

In this fashion, the story of the loves of Romeo 
and Juliet might be unrolled by means of these stock- 


figures, each of which retained his own name always 
and his own individuality. And in this same fashion, 
any other story, tragic or comic, might be represented 
by a similar company of Italian comedians, accustomed 
to one another, and realizing the advantages of con- 
scientious "team-play." The unchanging and highly 
colored type, which any one of these comedians im- 
personated and made his own, has an obvious likeness 
to the bishop or knight or any other piece of a set of 
chessmen, whose rights and privileges are strictly limited 
and absolutely invariable, but who can be set in motion 
in varied and limitless relations with the other pieces. 
That the Italians were able to interest audiences, 
generation after generation, with primitive plots of 
this kind in which character was subordinated to story, 
is added evidence that action is of primary importance 
in the theater. But the pieces these Italians impro- 
vised abundantly had only a fleeting vogue. Nothing 
except depth and sincerity of character-drawing can 
endow a play with the enduring merit which will re- 
sist the inevitable changes of theatrical fashion. The 
"Romeo and Juliet" of Shakspere survives to-day, as 
vital as when it was first acted, because its two fore- 
most figures are eternal types of the heedless and head- 
strong passion of ardent youth. 



You are not going to make or ruin your imagination while here. 
That is something that will remain if you have it in you; that you 
cannot acquire if you are not blessed with it. But here you may 
learn to handle your tools. So measure, copy, plumb. A carpenter 
who constantly uses a foot-rule can guess the length of a foot better 
than one who seldom refers to it. — Augustus Saint-Gaudens, 
to his pupils, as reported by Homer Saint-Oaudens, 

The technic of the drama is more difficult to grasp than 
the technic of prose-fiction, because the novelist needs 
to consider his readers only, whereas the dramatist has 
always to consider his actors, his theater, and his au- 
dience. When we contrast the constructive faculty re- 
quired by the playmaker with that which we tolerate in 
the story-teller, we are led to the conclusion that the 
novel may be the product of unskilled labor, whereas 
the play must be the work of a craftsman who has 
learned his trade and acquired the mastery of his 
tools. Many a modern novel in the English language, 
more than one of Dickens's, is a sprawling invertebrate. 
The conduct of the story is haphazard ; and we may 
guess that the author modified his earlier intentions 
more than once in the course of his writing. Scott be- 
gan " Woodstock" without knowing how he was going 
to end it; and he recorded in his journal that when 
he had finished the first of the three volumes in which 


the stoiy was originally published, he was al a loss to 
find matter for the second yolume. 

Now, the playwri^t cannot take things in this 
easy-going faction. He needs a subject strong enou^ 
to carry him through, since charm of treatment and di- 
versity of incident will avail him little, if his theme is 
not interesting in itsdf . He cannot rely on constructed 
decoration ; he can only decorate his construction. As 
the shrewd Voltaire insisted, the success of a play de- 
pends very largdy on the subject chosen. This subject 
must, as Aristotle tells us, have a certain magnitude, 
that is to say, it cannot be trivial or casual; and it must 
have a b^inning, a middle, and an» end. Moreover, 
it must be conducted from the b^inning through the 
middle to the end, as directly as may be. The stoiy 
' cannot straggle into by-paths; it cannot meander into 
. backwaters; it must move forward steajdily and irre- 
J sistibly , setting before the spectators the essential -scenes 
of the essential struggle. The elder Dumas once de- 
clared that the secret of success on the stage was to 
make " the first act clear, the last act short, and all the 
acts interesting." This is no easy feat; and it can be 
achieved only by a scrupulous forethought akin to 
that employed by the architect in designing a building 
for a special purpose on a special plot of land. The 
dramatist must accept the obligations thus imposed, 
and he must meet them as best he can ; for it is in meet- 
ing them that he fails or triumphs. 

Many years ago, before he had adventured himself 
in playwriting, Mr. Henry James stated the case with 
his customary insight. 

** Between a poor drama and a fine one, there is," he said, 
"a wider interval than anywhere else in the scale of success. 


A sequence of speeches headed by proper names — a string 
of dialogues broken into acts and scenes — does not con- 
stitute a drama; not even when the speeches are very clever 
and the dialogue bristles with points. The fine thing in a 
real drama, generally speaking, is that more than any other 
work of literary art, it needs a masterly structure. It needs 
to be shaped and fashioned and laid together, and this pro- 
cess makes a demand upon an artist's rarest gifts. He must 
combine and arrange, interpolate and eliminate, play the 
joiner with the most attentive skill ; and yet at the end effect- 
ually bury his tools and his sawdust, and invest his elaborate 
skeleton with the smoothest and most polished integument. 
The five-act drama — serious or humorous, poetic or pro- 
saic — is like a box of fixed dimensions and inelastic mate- 
rial, into which a mass of precious things are to be packed 
away. It is a problem > in ingenuity, and a problem of the 
most interesting kind. The precious things in question seem 
out of all proportion to the compass of the receptacle; but 
the artist has an assurance that with patience and skill a 
place may be made for each, and that nothing need be clipped 
or crumpled, squeezed or damaged. The false dramatist 
either knocks out the sides of his box, or plays the deuce with 
the contents; the real one gets down on his knees, disposes 
of his goods tentatively, this, that, and the other way, loses 
his temper but keeps his ideal, and at last rises up in triumph, 
having packed his coffer in the one way that is mathematically 
right. It closes perfectly, and the lock turns with a click ; be- 
tween one object and another you cannot insert the point 
of a penknife. To work successfully beneath a few grave, 
rigid laws, is always a strong man's highest ideal of success.*' 

The dramatist has to choose a theme and to develop 
this theme into a story suitable for the stage ; he has to 
set this story in motion so that the scenes which must be 
shown will follow one another easily ; he has to people 
this story with characters, interesting in themselves and 
contrasting with one another; and he has to place these 


characters in appropriate surroundings, devising op- 
portunities for them to come together without unduly 
straining probabilities. He has to do one thing at a time 
and all things in their turn. He has to remember always 
that the spectators for whose delight he is working 
have only one pair of ears apiece and one pair of eyes. 
The theater is not a three-ringed circus; and he must 
never forget Herbert Spencer's declaration of the doc- 
trine of Economy of Attention, quite as applicable in 
the other arts as it is to rhetoric. The dramatist must 
make it easy for the spectators to follow his story, 
however complicated its plot may be. He must avoid 
confusing them or leaving them in doubt as to the 
reason for anything done on the stage. The first act 
must be clear, of course ; but then all the acts must be 
clear, or they will not be interesting. The dramatist 
has not done his duty when the spectators are puzzled 
even for a moment and ask each other what it is all 

Yet Dumas is right in insisting that it is of prime 
importance that the first act shall be clear, for if this 
is obscure, the attention of the audience is distracted, 
and they will not be able to follow what comes after. 
Two of the most salient differences between a play 
and a novel are due to two of the actual facts of per- 
formance; first, that in the theater, every minute is 
counted, whereby the playwright can waste time only 
at the risk of boring and of bewildering the specta- 
tors; and, second, that the spectators must seize the 
thread of the story as it is unrolled before them, being 
denied the privilege of turning back to the first chap- 
ter to pick up any hints they may have missed inad- 



Every work of literary art must have a beginning, a 
middle, and an end; and here is where art sharply 
separates itself from life, which is all middle, with an 
end that no man may see, and with numberless begin- 
nings lost in the dark backward of Time. The artist 
has to decide just what portion and just how much he 
will present of this unending pattern which is a-weav- 
ing on the loom of eternity. He must have a beginning 
somewhere and he must make an end somehow. The 
epic poet of old, and his later inheritor, the novelist 
of to-day, have to conform to this as well as the dra- 
matic poet ; but narrative art is far freer than dramatic, 
far more flexible, far less restricted by the demands 
of a rigid form. 

The strict limitation of the time allotted to him de- 
bars the dramatist from the leisurely method of ap- 
proach which the novelist may adopt if he sees fit. In 
a story, the author can begin as far back as he likes, 
filling his opening pages with a detailed record of his 
hero's ancestry, even unto the third and fourth genera- 
tion, dilating at will upon details not strictly essential, ) 
and digressing as much or as little as the spirit moves 
him. But in a play, the writer must select what is sig- \ 
nificant, and he must so present this that its signifi- \ 
cance is manifest at first sight. He can neither digress 
nor dilate ; he must keep to the straight line which / 
is the shortest distance between two points. Many 
things must have happened before he lifts the curtain ; 
and out of all these, he has to make his choice, so that 
he can center attention on those special things which 
he knows the audience must have in mind for the full 
comprehension of his action. He suppresses rigorously 


all the rest, however temptiiig tiwy may be in them- 
selves. He must supply the spectators with exactly 
the iaformatioa they will need to iqiprehend the move- 
ment of the plot, DO more and no less. 

The first desire of the audioice present at the per- 
formance of a play is to understand what it is all about, 
and their secx)nd demand is ttiat the action shall de- 
velop before their eyes flo that it can he followed with- 
out effort. When two characters of the play meet for the 
first time on the stage, the qtectator b glad if he already 
knows who they are, what their relation is the one to 
the other, and what th^ are each of them striving for. 
If this information has already been given to him, he 
can listen to their diak^ewith intdligent interest. If 
this information has been withheld, his attention is 
likely to be distracted by his efiort to place the two char- 
acters and to guess what they are driving at. Often 
the two characters can explain themselves in a word or 
two at the b^^inning of their talk ; but often again thdr 
relations are more or less complicated, depending on 
an unusual series of antecedent events. The more in- 
tricate this complexity may be, the more obvious is 
the obligation of the playwright to set it forth with the 
utmost sharpness, so that it cannot be misunderstood, 
A full appreciation of the relations of the several char- 
acters to each other is a condition precedent to the 
playgoer's interest in the action, as it is unfolded before 

In the vocabulary of stage-craft, this conveying to the 
audience of the knowledge necessary to enable them 
to follow the plot is known as "exposition." It is a 
very important part of the art of construction. It is 
one of the tests by which we can gage the dexterity 

r "V 


of a dramatist, and by which we can measure his com- 
mand over the resources of his craft. Some play- 
wrights have to perfection a knack of taking the play- 
goer right into the middle of things in the opening 
scenes of the first act, with a simplicity apparently so 
straightforw^ard that he has never a suspicion of the 
artfulness whereby he has been supplied with all sorts 
of information about the past history of the chief char- 
acters. Some dramatists are careless and slovenly in 
exposition ; and some are leisurely and cumbrous. 

But no dramatic author can evade the necessity of 
telling the audience all about that portion of his plot 
which took place before the curtain rises on his first 
act. Sooner or later this information must be supplied 
somehow. The dramatist can do it in a prologue 
which is spoken before the play begins, as Plautus does 
in the "Captives." He can do it inside the play in a 
long soliloquy which is practically a prologue, as Eu- 
ripides does in " Medea." He can put it into tense dia- 
logue supported by swift action in the opening scenes 
of the first act, as Shakspere does in " Othello." He 
can postpone it for a while and scatter it through the 
whole play, as Ibsen does in " Ghosts." But he must 
not put it off until it is too late, as Ibsen does in " Ros- 
mersholm," where we do not learn until the final act 
the real motive which has been guiding Rebecca West. 
This we should have liked to know earlier in the play, 
since it would have enabled us to perceive the trans- 
formation that had been wrought in her character. 

If we may deduce a principle from the practice of 
the most expert playwrights, we should be led to be- 
lieve that the best method of exposition is to compress 
it into the first act, even at the risk of making the 


earlier scenes a. little slow and labored. WTien they 
first take their seals in the theater, the spectators are 
alert and ready to seize even the slightest hint. They 
have not had time yet to be tired and they are there- 
fore less easily bored. Besides, even if they are bored 
by the first act, they have paid their money for the 
evening's entertainment, and therefore they can be 
relied on to stay where they are and to await patiently 
the second act with the firm hope that this will turn 
out to be more Interesting. 

This was Scribe's habit, and Scribe was a past-master 
of all the mysteries of playmaking. He massed all his 
explanatory matter in the earliest scenes of his piece, 
making everything transparently clear, so that even 
the dullest and the laziest spectators could not fail to 
understand the situation. He brought his characters 
into the action one by one, introducing them to the 
audience carefully so that they might always thereafter 
be identified. If lie thou^'ht it advi.sable, he did not 
hesitate to give up a whole act to mere exposition, well 
aware that he could recapture the full attention of the 
spectators by the celerity with which the action would 
go forward, after these preliminary explanations and 
introductions bad been got rid of. Thus it is that in 
" Adrienne Lecouvreur," be kept the heroine out of the 
opening act, in which all the other characters appear 
to lay the foundation of the plot, and he artfully re- 
served her first appearance to awaken fresh interest 
in the second act. 

Scribe's contemporary, the elder Dumas, was quite 
as careful and as skilful in his introductory scenes. 
He liked to begin briskly, and to combine his exposi- 
tion with the action itself. He has told us that he had 


invented the story of one of his most successful plays, 
" Mademoiselle de Belle Isle," two or three years be- 
fore he was ready to write it, postponing the actual 
composition until he happened on an effective open- 
ing. One day he heard about a pair of lovers who had 
broken a coin in two, each keeping a half, with the 
understanding that when either tired of the other, the 
half-coin should be returned as a token of the end 
of their intrigue. He seized on this eagerly and used 
it as the starting-point of the play already completely 
plotted in his head. 

The younger Dumas, the author of the perennial 
and pathetic piece known to American playgoers as 
" Camille," inherited from his father a native gift for 
playmaking and a subtle insight into its conditions. He 
declared that the art of the dramatist is an art of pre- 
paration chiefly, and that every scene should be led 
up to so adroitly that the spectator expects it vaguely 
and welcomes it warmly. And he had derived from 
his father also a liking for a striking beginning, which 
should grip the interest ot the audience at the very 
rise of the curtain, forcing them to perceive at once 
and without hesitation the relations of the chief char- 
acters to one another. 

But it is in one of his later and less successful pieces, 
the "Femme de Claude," that he provides the most 
ingenious specimen of his skill in opening a play with 
a scene which is at once explanatory and effective in 
itself. When the curtain rises, the stage is dark and 
the spectators can dimly perceive a room with its shut- 
ters closed. An old servant enters with a night lamp, 
which she holds up to the face of a clock ; it is morn- 
ing, and she is going to let in the dawn. Then she 


hears a tapping at the window^ followed by. a woman's 
Yoioe, which she recognizes with r^ret. **Vfhj the 
devil is she coining back?" she asks herself. *'A11 
was going well here." Then she throws wide the shut- 
ters- and opens the door for the woman outside. And 
from the brief dialogue which follows, as sharp and as 
cold as the crossing of two swords in a duel, the spec- 
tators learn that the returning woman is the wander- 
ing wife of the master of the house* and in response 
to her questions as to what has happened during her 
absence, the old servant sets before us all of the facts 
which are necessary to interest us in the strange play. 

SardoUy the contemporary of the younger Dumas^ 
and the successor of Scribe as a dramaturgic artificer, 
was also ingenious in his expositions. The first act of 
**F^ora/' for example, is a prologue which is needed 
to explain and to justify the play it precedes; but it is 
also swift in its action and pictorial in its movement; 
and when at last the curtain falls on it, we see that the 
clever playwright ended it with an interrogation mark, 
with a suggestion of suspense which keeps us in our 
seats wondering what will be the outcome of the fatal 
episode we have witnessed. 

Often, however, Sardou adopted another method, 
as in his eariier social satires, "Nos Intimes" and the 
"Faraille Benoiton," and in his later historical melo- 
dramas," Theodora" and " Gismonda/' In these plays, 
he used his first act, and often his second also, to paint 
a phase of society, modem or ancient. He brought 
before us a crowd of characters, entertaining in them- 
selves and humorously contrasted with one another, 
making amusing remarks and revealing themselves in 
amusing situations. As the play goes forward, the 


spectator Ibegins to have his attention drawn to a little 
group of more striking figures ; and in the later acts, 
these figures take the center of the stage, the host of 
merely pictorial characters sinking into the background, 
after having served their purpose. It is by means of 
the talk of these subsidiary personages that we have 
been made aware of the relations of the really important 
characters. In Sardou's hands, this method was em- 
ployed to advantage ; but it is dangerous, since it tends 
to distract the attention of the audience from the core 
of the real drama. For its successful use, it requires 
the marvelous dexterity of a wizard of stage-craft, such 
as Sardou was ; and it was Sardou's misfortune that his 
delight in his own skill as a contriver of artful devices 
led him too often to be content with a play which is 
only an empty mechanism, in which the spectators 
can see the wheels go round and by which all human 
feeling has been crushed out of the story. 


One of the oldest devices, outworn now and long 
ago discarded by self-respecting dramatists, is to open 
the play with the conversation of two or three servants, 
dusting the room and setting the furniture to rights. 
These domestics are allowed to inform the spectator 
that it is two years or ten since master and mistress 
quarrelled and parted, and that now husband and 
wife are to meet again for the first time since their 
separation. Equally ancient is the obvious artifice of 
beginning the piece by compelling one character to tell 
another what that character already knows. The ar- 
tificiality of this seems to us now a little too transpar- 
ent. Yet Dryden did not scorn to employ it more than 


once, notably in his "Spanish Friar," which begins 
with the meeting of two officers at night who repeat 
aloud what each of them is already familiar with. 
It is no wonder that Sheridan saw the absurdity of this 
threadbare convention and made fun of it in the bur- 
lesque tragedy which is rehearsed in the "Critic." 

And yet the audience must be told somehow, and 
even the clumsiest exposition is better than leaving the 
spectator in the dark. In the drama, as in all the other 
arts, simplicity is the best policy; and that exposition 
is most satisfactory which is at once straightforward, 
and swift and clear. This is what every great dra- 
matist has tried to attain, well aware that it cannot 
be achieved without taking thought. The principles 
of dramatic art are unchanging through the ages, 
and ^schylus in Athens, Shakspere in London, and 
Moliere in Paris, had to solve the same problem that 
Scribe and Sardou had to struggle with in their turn. 
Each of them, in his own fashion, had to take the au- 
dience into the heart of his story, supplying the inform- 
ation necessary for its appreciation as best he could. 

^schylus opens his masterpiece, "Agamemnon," 
with a watchman on the roof of the palace, waiting for 
the fiery beacon which shall announce the fall of Troy ; 
and as he waits, he delivers a long soliloquy conveying 
to the spectators the needful knowledge of the state of 
affairs which the returning hero will find when he 
comes back to his long-deserted home. Moliere opens 
his masterpiece, " Tartuffe," with a piquant discussion 
of the character of the hypocritical intruder, which 
strikes the note of the play and which prepares us for 
all that follows. Goethe said that the first scene of 
"Tartuffe" is "the greatest and best example of an 


introduction which shows the significance and impor- 
tance of what is to come " ; and he declared that Moliere 
was " the man from whom most about the technic of 
the modern drama can be learned." And yet Moliere 
was sometimes bold in employing more primitive 
methods of exposition, not hesitating to begin a play 
by sending on a character to make a soliloquy in which 
the situation is set forth boldly. 

Shakspere was careful in the exposition of his ear- 
lier pieces, both comic and tragic. He plunges into the 
thick of his story in the opening §cene of " Othello," 
in which he shows us lago waking Desdemona's father, 
with the unwelcome news that the daughter of a Vene- 
tian patrician has married a Moor. And he follows this 
with the meeting of the Senators, where Othello is called 
upon to tell the story of his wooing. When the first act 
of the play is over, we know all that we need to know, 
and our attention has been kept keenly on the alert, 
while we are eager to be told how the strange marriage 
will turn out. Equally ingenious and effective is the 
first act of " Romeo and Juliet," in the opening scene 
of which we find the feud between the Montagues and 
the Capulets so embittered that it breaks out into a street 
brawl. And then, when this envenomed quarrel has 
been shown unforgettably, we are allowed to be wit- 
nesses of the love-at-first-sight of the son of one house 
for the daughter of the other. 

It is characteristic of the incisive but often hap- 
hazard criticism of Hazlitt that he casually dismissed 
the "Comedy of Errors" as a careless piece of work. 
Now, it is a fact that Shakspere, who was capable of 
an infinity of pains in handling his plot when his theme 
had kindled his interest, was careless enough in the 


constnictioii of some of his later pieces, in ** Cymbe- 
line" especially, and in the "Winter's Tale." But 
there are few evidences of this relaxing of his artistic 
standard in his earlier plays, and none at all in the 
*^ Comedy of Errors." Indeed,* careless is just what 
this play is not and just what it could not be, since it 
depends entirely on the adjustment of its mechanism. 
It is only a farce, after all, inferior, and perhaps un- 
worthy of the hand th&t was to give us "" Othello" and 
*^ Madbeth." Like other farces, it has to rely not on the 
humor and the veracity of its characters, but on the 
adroitness of its situations. It stands revealed frankly 
as farce wh^i we examine its plot, which is patently 
impossible, since it requires us to accept the existence 
of two pairs of twins so alike in looks, in speech, in 
manner, and even in costume that they can be con- 
stantly taken the one for the other, in spite of their 
having been brought up in different places. 

That the spectators may get amusement out of the 
various mistaken identities which make up the plot, 
it is absolutely essential that they should be told plainly, 
at the very beginning, all about the two sets of twins, 
and that they should have explained to them the strange 
combination of circumstances which has resulted in 
bringing both pairs of brothers together unexpectedly 
in the same city, the one master and his servant hav- 
ing every reason to believe that the other master and 
the other servant have been lost at sea. To tell these 
things so that there shall be no doubt about them is 
no easy task ; and Shakspere accomplished it with ab- 
solute certainty and with perfect apprehension of dra- 
matic effect. He opened his play with a hearing before 
the Duke, who is judging the case of the father of the 


two young masters. This bereaved parent has come 
to seek his missing son, and in so doing he has violated 
the local law against strangers. He pleads as his ex- 
cuse his paternal love for his lost child. Thus the whole 
story of the two pairs of twins, of their birth and of 
their separation, of their survival each unknown to 
the other, — all this is set forth in the speech of an old 
man on trial for his life, a situation which instantly 
arouses the sympathy of the audience and secures their 
unflagging attention. 

We can see one reason for Shakspere's extreme care- 
fulness in exposition when we recall the fact that more 
than half of the Elizabethan playgoers were not pro- 
vided with seats. The groundlings, as they were called^ 
had to stand all through the performance, and they 
could not help being more restless and therefore less 
alert to follow the explanations of the author than if 
they had been comfortably seated. But even if they 
were a little restless at times, the audiences for whose 
delight Shakspere composed his plays were quick 
enough to seize and to appreciate what the dramatist 
gave them. Here Shakspere was far more fortunate 
than Plautus who had to amuse the Roman populace, 
made up of f reedmen and of foreigners, the riffraff and 
the rabble of the city, often only imperfectly acquainted 
with Latin. In his " Captives," Plautus dealt with a 
story the beginnings of which are rather complicated, 
although not really so intricate and so difficult to ex- 
plain as the antecedents of the characters in the " Com- 
edy of Errors." The Roman playwright evidently had 
no confidence in the intelligence or in the attention 
of his audience ; and so he took no chances. He did 
not dare develop the relations of his characters in the 


play itself untfl he had made use of a prologue, in 
which the whole situation is elaborately explained so 
that ev^i the dullest must get hold of it. Nor did this 
satisfy him; he made the speaker of the prologue in- 
sist on his explanation two or three times over, until 
it was driven into the heads of the spectators, however 
stupid ihqr might be. And no doubt this extreme 
OBphasis of exposition was only what was absolutely 
necessary under the circumstances. 

It is d^cult always for a dramatist to gage the aver- 
age intdligence of his successive audiences. Wliat is 
only explanation Plough for one set of spectators may 
be undue insistence on the obvious for another. And 
the wise playwright is ready to risk offending the quick- 
minded few to make sure of the understanding of the 
slow-witted many. Planch^ records the advice given 
to him early in the nineteenth century by a sagacious 
old stage-manager named Bartley. *' If you want the 
British public to understand what you are doing,'* 
this shrewd observer declared, "you must tell them 
that you are going to do it; then you must tell them 
that you are doing it ; and after all you must tell them 
that you have done it. And then, confound thern^ 
perhaps they will understand you." 


This is a hard saying, yet it contains much wisdom. 
Especially is it important for the plajrwright to tell 
the spectators what he is going to do, — or at least to 
evoke the interest of expectancy and to lead them 
vaguely to desire what he is about to set before them. 
In prose-fiction, it is possible to captivate readers by 
keeping a secret from them, disclosed only at the most 


impressive moment. In fact, the eflfeet of the detective- 
story depends solely on this device; the author invents 
an enigma and he tries to keep us guessing until the 
last page. And even novelists of a richer endowment, 
possessing true imagination in addition to mere in- 
vention (which is all that the writer of mystery-tales 
needs), novelists like Fielding and Thackeray, may 
legitimately leave us in doubt for a little while, and 
reveal the secret of the birth of Tom Jones and of 
Henry Esmond only when they see fit. But this the nov- 
elists may do because their unhurried reader can take 
time to think. And this the dramatist cannot do. One 
of the first rules of the stage is not to keep a secret 
from the spectators. The failure of Charles Lamb's 
"Mr. H." was more or less due to the circumstance 
that the misguided author chose to conceal the real 
name, of which his hero was ashamed, not only from 
the other characters in the little farce, but also from the 
audience. The spectators must know the facts, even 
though the characters may be left groping in the dark 
until the last act. Indeed, the audience finds special 
pleasure in the perplexity of the people in the play; it 
wonders what will happen when Othello discovers the 
villainy of lago, or when Sir Peter Teazle finds out that 
Joseph Surface is a hypocrite. 

In Mrs. Oliphant's uninspired biography of the au- 
thor of the " School for Scandal," she exhibited her 
total failure to grasp this principle. Herself a success- 
ful writer of prose-fiction, she had no understanding 
of the fundamental differences which necessarily exist 
between the art of the novelist and the art of the 
dramatist. When she came to deal with the screen- 
scene of the "School for Scandal," one of the most 


effective episodes in the whole range of comedy, she 
was guilty of a masterpiece of undramatic criticism. 
Sir Peter has come to the library of Joseph and he is 
told that there is a little milliner hidden behind the 
screen which stands before the window ; and suddenly, 
when this screen is overturned, he finds himself face 
to face with his own wife. And then Mrs. Oliphant 
made this hopeless comment : '' It would no doubt have 
been higher art could the dramatist have deceived his 
audience as well as the personages of the play, and 
made us also parties in the surprise of the discovery." 
That is to say, she would have substituted a single 
shock of astonishment for the long-drawn series of an- 
ticipations aroused in the spectators, from the moment 
of the husband's entrance, by their knowledge that it 
was Lady Teazle who was hidden behind the scr^a. 
The playgoer likes to exercise his ingenuity and to 
foresee what is about to happen on the stage. In fact, 
his interest is really not so much in what is to happen 
as the way in which this event is going to affect the 
characters involved. He thinks it likely enough that 
Sir Peter will discover that Lady Teazle is paying a 
visit to Joseph Surface ; but what he is really anxious 
to learn is the way the husband will take it. What 
will Lady Teazle have to say when she is discovered 
where she has no business to be ? How will Sir Peter 
receive her excuses? ^Miat will the effect be on the 
future conduct of both husband and wife ? These are 
the questions which the spectators are eager to have 
answered. The dramatist may excite curiosity by all 
sorts of ingenious devices, but he must never deceive 
the spectators. He may keep them in suspense or in 
doubt, but he must not absolutely mislead them. 


Even in prose-fiction, the impression made by a 
startling surprise is only fleeting. When we have once 
been granted an explanation of the mysterious deeds, 
our curiosity is satisfied ; and the book is rarely taken 
up a second time. Few of us ever care to peruse a tale 
of Wilkie Collins after we have once found out the 
key of the puzzle, although we may return again and 
again to Tom Jones and to Henry Esmond, following 
the career of either with renewed interest, in spite of 
the fact that we are in possession of the secret of his 
birth. Poe was very shrewd when he asserted that 
"Barnaby Rudge" would have been more interesting 
if Dickens had eschewed all mystery-mongering. In 
the drama, our knowledge of the end of a play in no 
wise interferes with our enjoyment. We go to see the 
"School for Scandal" and "Othello," whenever they 
are properly presented, regardless of the fact that the 
end is familiar in advance. We are glad to have new 
dramatists handle again the old themes, "Francesca 
da Rimini," and "Faust," curious to observe the vari- 
ations which the younger generations can play on the 
old tune we have known from our own youth. In this, 
we are like the Greeks of old, the Athenians who, in 
spite of their longing to hear some new thing, con- 
tented themselves in the theater with the traditional 
stories which every dramatist took over in turn, trans- 
forming them to suit his own genius. 

Here, as in all matters of art, the Greeks displayed 
their good sense. Novelty of plot is possible only 
within narrow limits ; and every dramatist has to bor- 
row again the situations which were the common 
property of his predecessors. Gozzi, the Italian play- 
wright, once declared that there were only thirty- 


six possible situations; and when Goethe and Schiller 
tried to catalogue them, they could not find even 
ihirty-six. * There was truth of a kind in the school- 
boy's definition of a plagiarist as ^ a writer of plays." 
The dramatist must be forever working over old ma- 
terial» since there is nothing new under the sun. But 
if the situations he can. use are very few» the char- 
acters he may create are without number. Human 
nature is infinitely various, and the playwright has un^- 
limited credit when he is drawing a draft on our com- 
mon humanity. His plot may be as old as the hills, 
if he can only people it with lovers as young as the 
springtime, with men and women eternally fresh be- 
cause they are true to life. Brisk young fellows had 
wooed coy maids in many a comedy before Orlando 
and Bosalind met again in the Forest of Arden, and 
Orestes had set out to avenge his murdered father cen- 
turies ere the same burden was too heavily laid on 

The plot is only the frame in which the portrait is 
suspended, even though plotting is more essential than 
character-drawing. The ultimate value of the situations 
is that they enable the dramatist to reveal human na- 
ture. And this is one reason why dramatists of high 
distinction have sometimes seemed careless in winding 
up their plays. Of course, every playwright must work 
out the end of his piece before he writes his first line. 
Until he knows just where he is going, he cannot set out 
on his journey, since he has no leisure for a false start. 
And yet this goal to which he is journeying may be 
arbitrarily chosen, and when it arrives it may seem 
illogical or even contradictory. 

It is difficult to exaggerate the necessity of an expo- 


sitioD so cle^n* that no misunderstanding is possible 
even on the part of a preoccupied spectator. The be- 
ginning of a play is really more important than the end, 
although in strict logic the proper untying of the knot 
would seem to be the more necessary. But if an au- 
dience has sat for three hours, following with keen en- 
joyment the successive episodes of a conflict between 
forces evenly balanced, it does not insist upon logic; 
it is often better pleased to have the knot cut arbitrarily 
than to be delayed by the process of untying. It has had 
its pleasure, pressed down and running over; and it is 
not churlish in denying to the author the privilege of 
finishing off the play as he thinks fit. The play itself 
is what counts, not the way the story is made to end. 
The picture of life is what the spectators have enjoyed ; 
and they do not — or at least the most of them do not — 
care what moral may be tagged to the fable by which 
they have been entertained. Perhaps this is one reason 
why Shakspere and Moliere are sometimes so casual in 
the winding up of their plots, as though they were ad- 
mitting that since in real life nothing ever comes to an 
end, so on the stage, even if an end of some sort is asked 
for, one end is about as good as another. 

The modern playgoer prefers a happy ending. He 
has a fondness for the old-fashioned fairy-tale finish, 
" and so they lived happily ever after." It is only in 
opera that he is willing to tolerate the sadness of death. 
He is not like the playgoer of Athens who seems to have 
expected always to see the doom fulfilled and fate ac- 
complished. And this is not a recent trait of the play- 
goer's temperament; we can find an earlier yielding 
to this in the marrying off in the last acts of " Measure 
for Measure," for example, when that gloomy play 


demanded a more serious oondusion. ^And Moliire 
not only brought Tartuffe to justice, but also took the 
trouble to restore the fortune of Orgon, which is in the 
nature of a concession to this predilection of the pub- 
lic for a pleasing solution. So Mr. Gillette, in his ** Secret 
Service/' an admirable play in its veracity as well as 
in its ingenuity, carried us' straight to the tragic end 
which is the only logical issue of the circumstances 
and the characters, — and then, at the culmination, 
when the prompter's hand was on the bell to ring 
down the curtain, the author suddenly reprieved his 
hero and married him off in the twinkling of an eye. 
The effect b as though the dramatist was saying to the 
audience, ''Of course, this play is a tragedy, and it 
cannot really be anything else, but, if most of you insist 
on a happy ending, you may have it your own way !" 
It is true that there had been so much comedy here 
and there in ''Secret Service" that the spectators were 
not ready to take the play as a tragedy. 

Such a violation of logic would have been very offen- 
sive to the younger Dumas, who was stern in his in- 
sistence that the plot of a play ought to be like a mathe- 
matical demonstration. The conclusion must be the 
sura total, the working out, of all the other scenes. This 
principle is sound enough when it is applied to Dumas's 
own pieces in which he was defending a thesis or ex- 
pounding his own opinions. It is sound when applied 
to the social-draraa of Ibsen, sustained by a moral 
proposition. In the social-drama, the playwright is 
bound to be honest with himself and with the audience. 
He has then no right to be illogical, for logic is of the 
essence of the contract, as the lawyers say. He must 
keep faith with the spectators, since he is presenting 


to us a sociological problem and inviting us to accept 
his solution of it. But in the comedy-of-character and 
in the comedy-of -manners, no such obligation is really 
imposed on the playwright. In the plays of these allied 
types, the dramatist has no thesis to sustain, no private 
opinion to parade ; and he is content to set before us a 
group of human beings whom he puts through their 
paces, whom he turns inside out before us. And when 
he has done this, he has accomplished his purpose, and 
the play can be wound up summarily by the customary 
wedding bells. 


This license allowed him at the termination of his 
work, the playwright sometimes asks for in the middle 
also; and here he is on dangerous ground, where he 
must move circumspectly, picking his way cautiously. 
It must be ever his chief aim to make bis work appear 
as " natural " as may be ; and his art is held in the high- 
est esteem only when he is able to avoid not only the 
extravagant and the arbitrary, but even the accidental. 
It should be his constant endeavor so to present the re- 
sult of his loving labor that it can be apprehended and 
appreciated with as little effort as possible. This is a 
quality of sculpture and of painting, when these arts 
are at their best. It is a characteristic more especially 
of those literary arts in which the poet undertakes to 
tell a story either in drama or in prose-fiction. Whether 
the story-teller is setting his tale in action on the stage, 
or presenting it in narrative in verse or in prose, he is 
bound to do his best to give the utmost verisimilitude 
to the series of events to which he is inviting the atten- 
tion of the spectator or the reader. In planning his plot, 
he must endeavor to make these events coherent and 


dear and complete in themselves. He can do tliis only 
by isolating ihem from all the other events which have 
been taking place at the same time. From out of the 
tumultuous turmoil of existence, he must select a se- 
quence of happenings to which He has to give a sem- 
blance of unity; and he chooses this particular chain 
of events, and not any other, because he can see in it 
a significance worthy of artistic presentation. 

These actions of certain characters plucked out from 
the tangled web of real life he has to set by themselves ; 
he has to condense them and to relate them logically; 
he has to keep out all extraneous and casual circum- 
stances not bearing directly upon them. Only by this 
process of exclusion is he able to focus attention upon 
the group he has determined to show us. He is com- 
pelled to n^lect and deliberately to leave out of ac- 
count all the other persons then going about their busi- 
ness anywhere in the world at large. It is his duty so 
to deal with this group of picked men and women that 
their deeds shall seem to be determined by themselves 
and by themselves only, unaflfected by what might be 
done by outsiders. 

Here, of course, the artist has to depart from the 
mere facts of life as we all see them ; and by tacit agree- 
ment, the spectators authorize him to make this de- 
parture. In life, there are no groups of human beings 
detached from their fellows, suflScient unto themselves 
and uninfluenced by the rest of humanity. We cannot 
help knowing that every man and every woman is eter- 
nally immeshed in the intricate complexity of existence, 
and that we are all of us affected by the myriad move- 
ments of our fellow-creatures. And yet when we are 
spectators at a play, or readers of a novel, we not only 


permit this departure from the circumstances of actual 
life, we demand it absolutely. We are eager to have the 
artist profit by the convention proper to his art. 

What we desire from the artist is not the exact fact, 
but the underlying truth, of which the several facts 
are only the external accompaniment. We want him 
to choose his little knot of characters and to segregate 
them from out the mass of their fellow-beings, that 
we may the more easily follow the story he is ready to 
set before us. It is this isolated action of an isolated 
group of characters that we want to see. And we are 
swift to praise the artist for the skill with which he can 
depart from the actual to give us what we are glad 
to accept as the real. As Victor Hugo insisted in the 
preface of "Cromwell," the ^* domain of art and the 
domain of nature are absolutely distinct," since a re- 
ality in art is and must be different from a reality in 

The dramatist and the novelist demand from the 
public the permission to select what they prefer, to ar- 
range this as they may see fit, and to leave out all that 
they have no immediate use for; and they do this so 
that the public shall be called upon to give its atten- 
tion only to a single group of characters taking part in 
a single sequence of events, logically related the one 
to the other, and moving forward without any inter- 
ruption from the outside world and without any ob- 
trusion of chance. And this the public gladly allows, 
hoping to see in the story, whether it is on the stage 
or in a book, the working out of a single notion, taken 
by itself, naked of non-essentials, and uncontaminated 
by external accidents such as occur conmionly enough 
in actual life. 


In childhood, we can be amused easily by tales of the 
Impossible and of the Improbable ; and most of us nevec 
outgrow this childishness. But as we advance in years 
and in wisdom and in knowledge of the world, many 
of us become more exacting ; and we insist that the au- 
thor who wants our regard shall not stray too widely, 
from the Probable. A few of us will go so far as to be^ 
stow our warmest welcome on the writer who seeks to 
deal only with the Inevitable, and who tries resolutely 
to teU the truth about his characters and to let them*. 
chey the law of their being, doing only what they must 
do and eschewing everything that they would not do 
if they were left to themselves. 

We hold those plays and those novels to be the finest 
and the most enduring in which we are made to feel 
that nothing has happened by accident or because the. 
author himself intervened at the critical moment, and 
in which every action of every character is what it is 
because it could not be otherwise, if the conditions 
are what they have been represented. This ultimate 
truth, this abiding veracity, this inexorable inevitabil- 
ity, is what we are delighted to proclaim in most of the 
mightier masterpieces of literature — in the " CEdipus** 
of Sophocles, in the "Macbeth" of Shakspere, in the 
"Tartuflfe" of Moliere, — and also in the "Heart of 
Midlothian" of Scott, in the "Scarlet Letter" of 
Hawthorne, in the "Smoke" of Turgenieff, and in the 
"Anna Karenina" of Tolstoy. 

WTiile both the novelist and the dramatist are held 
strictly accountable to this ethical standard and are 
both of them bound to tell the truth as they see it, the 
playwright has a more diflScult task esthetically than 
the story-teller. His explanations have to be summary, 


and the deeds of his characters must speak for them- 
selves. It is always difficult for the dramatist, and in- 
deed it is not always possible for him, to make his plot 
as clear and as swift as it ought to be, without a single 
intervention of chance or a single deed which is not the 
spontaneous result of the individual will of the char- 
acter who performs it. TSTiile we have a right to demand 
from the leisurely novelist a strict obedience to the 
letter of the law, we are inclined to relax the code now 
and again for the benefit of the dramatist. And the evi- 
dence that we are not so severe with the playwright as 
with the story-teller is to be found in the fact that we 
tolerantly overlook in more than one of the great plays 
the intervention of chance or the obtrusion of the arbi- 
trary, which we should be much less likely to pardon 
in a story claiming equal rank. 

For example, " Romeo and Juliet" is a tragedy, and 
in a tragedy nothing ought to be left to chance and 
everything ought to be the result of the volition of the 
various characters. And yet we cannot help seeing 
that the fatal termination of the story, seemingly in- 
herent in the deadly feud of the rival houses, is brought 
about at last by what is only an accident. If Friar Lau- 
rence had but thought of the device of the potion two 
minutes earlier, before Romeo parted from Juliet in 
the cell, or if only the letter Friar Laurence sent after 
Romeo to Mantua had not miscarried, then Romeo 
would have known that Juliet was not dead but sleep- 
ing ; he would not have taken poison ; and Juliet would 
not have been glad to die on his dead body. A recent 
commentator has made bold to defend this as a subtle 
touch of Shakspere's art, in that it serves to remind 
us of the large part which chance plays in all human 

affairs. Ingenious as this defence may he, it is radi- 
cally unsound, since it confuses the reality of nature 
with the reality of art. 

The reason why this obtrusion of accident into this 
tragedy of Shakspere's docs not shock us, or even an- 
noy us, is twofold. In the first place, we cannot help 
feeling that doom is ever impending over the ill-starred 
lovers, and that even if Romeo had known about the 
potion, something else would assuredly have brought 
about the unavoidable end. And in the second place, 
Shakspere very adroitly wastes little time on explaining 
why the letter failed to reach Romeo. Indeed, the let- 
ter is something we do not see ; it is something that we 
are merely told about. Now, in tlie theater nothing 
grips our attention except what is actually shown to 
us. What is talked about makes little or no impression; 
the empty words go in one ear and out the other. And 
nobody knew this better than Shakspere. 

In " Romeo and Juliet, " the plot ends as it does be- 
cause of an accident, which is indisputably arbitrary. 
In certain other of ShaJtspere's plays, the action is 
what it is, because one or another of the characters acta 
arbitrarily, not of his own accord, but solely because 
the poet compels him to this deed that the plot can be 
carried on. If this arbitrary character is one of the 
important personages of the play, then this act of his 
focuses our attention and we cannot help noticing it. 
But if this arbitrary character is unimportant in him- 
self, we pay little heed to him, and we may even not note 
his departure from truth. In the first case, the falsity 
of his conduct is so paraded that the interest of the 
play suffers, whereas in the second case, we are so 
taken up in following the fortunes of the vital figures. 


that we pay no heed to the misdeeds of the minor char- 
acters, who exist merely to work the plot. 

In "As You Like It," for instance, the conduct of the 
usurping Duke and of Oliver, the elder brother of Or- 
lando, is not logical, or at least it is not so presented as 
to make us believe in its strict relation to their char- 
acteristics. The Duke and Oliver fulfil their purpose, 
when their ill-founded jealousies bring about the 
union of Rosalind and Orlando in the Forest of Arden. 
And their sudden and absurd repentance at the end of 
the play, their reformation in the twinkling of an eye, 
does not vex us because we really do not care what they 
may do or how completely they may contradict them- 
selves. So also in "Much Ado about Nothing," the 
malignant machinations of Don John and Borachio 
are almost motiveless, — at least their willing wicked- 
ness is taken for granted by the playwright and ac- 
cepted by the playgoers. The cause of their villainous 
intrigue against the gentle Hero is suggested summa- 
rily, with no serious effort to buttress it into plausi- 
bility. We can discover this weakness, if we care to 
look curiously at the construction of the plot ; but this 
is just what we are not tempted to inquire into. We 
are so busy following the wit-battle of Benedick and 
Beatrice that we have no leisure to peer into the mo- 
tives which move two minor but necessary persons to 
bring about the startling climax of the comedy. 

On the other hand, if the character who acts arbi- 
trarily is in the thick of the story and holds the center 
of the stage, then with all our good will we cannot help 
noticing what he is doing, and it irritates us to be forced 
to observe his inadequately motived actions. Neces- 
sarily our interest flags, when we hear the machinery 

HH • A fifPODY OP *!%[£ DEAI^ 

iMfik a little too bvidly. Isl the *" Wbit^a-'s Tidi^," fiA* 
instaaoe, the swift jealousy and vidbtit rage df Leo&teB 
seam 16 us in the twentic^ century merely wilful^ And 
abnost without justification. It b quite possible tki£t 
this unexpected transformation of character was fdetfB* 
tag to the Elizabethan audiences, for ^om the pkty 
was originally prq>ared and who rdisbed surprises ^ 
all kinds, eyma it these contradicted the strict logb of 
H^ chamcb^. ftit nowadays we like to see ev^iy 
dutfttdor obeying its own Ipgic ; and when it renoimises 
4Mb Qontfaiuity, we are vexed thst the author had not 
tak^ nuMfe pains to attain plausibility. So in the 
''Two G^tlanen of Verona/' a chi^ personages! tiie 
:piece» Plfol^s, is i^wn to us as a pa^fect gentiemaii 
at one BumM^it, and at the next as wi unspeakable 
cad ; tfnd the plot turns on this unexplained and bi- 
e3e|4ieaUe diange in him. And in this arbitrarineiHi of 
Pmteus and of Leontes, set in the forefront of these 
dramas, we may find one reason why the "Winter's 
Tale" and the "Two Gentlemen of Verona" are not so 
popular in the theater to-day as are "As You Like It" 
and " Much Ado about Nothing," in both of which the 
arbitrary characters are subordinate and unimportant. 


These illustrations have been taken from Shakspere, 
but they might have been chosen from almost any 
modern playwright. Sardou, for example, never wrote 
a more ambitious drama than his " Patrie," a historical 
play having for its background the manly resistance 
of the Netherlands to Spain. The piece abounds in 
pathetic situations and in adroit inventions; but it 
has always proved disappointing in the theater, be- 


cause the heroine, Svhose shoulders bear the burden 
of the plot, acts more than once not as she would have 
acted, but as the author forced her to act so that the 
play may be what he had plotted. The ordinary spec- 
tator may not be able to give this as the reason why he 
has not enjoyed the performance, but he feels dumbly 
that something is wrong. 

A central character who acts arbitrarily before the 
eyes of the spectators, so that they are forced to wit- 
ness his self-contradiction, is certain to alienate the sym- 
pathy of the audience and to imperil the success of 
the play, unless this central character happens to be 
either of two distinct things. He may be enigmatic, and 
then the spectators will tolerate what they do not 
clearly understand ; or else he must be openly the vil- 
lain of the play, and then they are ready enough to 
accept any dark scheme, however obscure its motive. 

Hamlet is the best possible example of the char- 
acter who is both arbitrary and enigmatic ; but Hedda 
Gabler is almost as significant. Hamlet is subtle and 
moody and changeable; and we never know what 
he will do next. Hedda is queer and abnormal and 
freakish ; and we accept her for what she seems to be 
at the moment, tolerating in her many things which 
would be intolerable in another woman. It is only 
when we study this play of Ibsen's in the library and 
endeavor to dissect its mechanism, that we perceive 
that more than one of the heroine's actions, which 
appeared sufficiently spontaneous in the theater, was 
really the result of the adroit author's desire to bring 
about the fatal termination he had resolved on. 

lago is the best possible example of a very important 
character who acts arbitrarily without interfering with 

our interest in the play. lago's haired of Othello is the 
mainspring of the plot ; and this Shakspere calmly takes 
for granted. It is true that the author feels the need 
of explaining it, and of justifying it. He gives three or 
four different reasons for it; but none are convincing. 
Indeed, one of them is almost absurd, — lago's jeal- 
ousy of Othello because he suspects his chief of an in- 
trigue with Emilia. All of Uiem taken together fail 
to account adequately for the fiendish malignity of 
lago's revenge. But we are not moved to protest, since 
we see in lago a figure of incarnate evil, capable of any 
wickedness and working destruction without restraint 
and almost without cause, simply because of his black- 
ness of soul. From a creature morally so hideous 
nothing astonishes us. 

But it is only a villain or an enigmatic character 
whom we arc willing to pardon for acting arbitrarily. 
The hero and the heroine of a play must conform to 
our idea of the natural. They must act as we think they 
would act in real life, or else they lose our sympathy. 
If the hero and the heroine continually do before our 
eyes what seems to us unreasonable, our interest in their 
story slackens and is soon dispersed. This is a chief 
reason why Browning's "Blot in the 'Scutcheon," 
powerful as it is, has never been able to establish it- 
self in the theater. Nor is Browning the only poet 
who has fallen into this error. The plays of Beaumont 
and Fletcher, for example, abound in scenes of infi- 
nite pathos and of striking theatrical effectiveness; but 
these authors were careless of probability and reckless 
in the conjunction of incoherent episodes. In any one 
of their pieces, any character may do anything at any 
moment wholly regardless of consistency. 


This liking for the unusual and for the violent is not 
uncommon among the tragic dramatists, many of whom 
seem to have felt that ordinary life is so commonplace 
that nothing is really dramatic unless it is strange and 
unheard of. Corneille, for example, deliberately sought 
for the most unlikely combinations, and searched his- 
tory to find them, not unsuccessfully, since fact is often 
stranger than fiction. Again, Schiller allowed Karl Moor, 
in the "Robbers," to believe the worst on a mere hint 
from his villainous brother, although the hero is well 
aware that no dependence ought to be placed on any- 
thing from such a source ; and yet such is the sweeping 
force of Schiller's story as it surges swiftly along that 
the spectators have scarcely time to notice this incon- 
sistency. VFctor Hugo also constantly made use of 
very improbable coincidences. In his "Ruy Bias," 
almost every character is more or less arbitrary, and 
hardly a single incident occurs except by the more or 
less obvious intervention of the author; and yet such 
is the charm of the resonadt verse with which these 
prearranged happenings are presented, that the play 
still pleases in spite of its inherent artificiality. 

Ibsen, on the other hand, sought to express the inner 
significance of the commonplace and to disclose the 
tragedy which may lie latent in the humdrum. The 
arbitrariness of incident and the frequency of coinci- 
dence, which are raised to the maximum in -Hugo's ro- 
manticist pieces, are reduced to the minimum in Ibsen's 
realistic social-dramas. But even Ibsen is sometimes 
a little disconcerting; and the startling transformation 
of Nora in the final act of the "Doll's House" has 
seemed to some critics, if not actually in contradiction 
to her character, at least not satisfactorily prepared for. 


Perhaps also the confession and self-abasement of 
Consul Bemick, in the " Pillars of Society," is not what 
the author hacj led us to expect from a character so 
self-seeking and so smugly self-complacent. In both 
of these plays of Ibsen's, however, this element of the 
arbitrary is to be found only in the last act, after our 
interest has been aroused and sustained by the veracity 
of all that has gone before. 

If an author cannot work out his plot absolutely 
without the intervention of the arbitrary, then he will 
do well to follow Aristotle's advice and keep it out of 
that part of the story which he is going to present, and 
to throw it back before the beginning of the play. This 
is what Sir Arthur Pinero did in "His House in Order/* 
which turns on the discover}' by a downtnJdden second 
wife that her predecessor had been unfaithful. Here 
the arbitrary character is the first wife ; and she is dead 
long before the play begins. This again is what Sopho- 
cles did two thousand years earlier in "Q^dipus the 
King." An oracle had predicted that (Edipus would 
kill his father and marry his mother; and when the 
play opens, the prediction has been fulfilled. If (Edi- 
pus had ever inquired into the circumstances of the 
death of locasta's first husband, he would have been 
able to avoid the predicted incest. But if he had made 
this inquiry, we could not have had the play. As we 
look back over the whole story, we cannot help per- 
ceiving the overwhelming improbability that after the 
warning of the oracle, locasta should ever have dared 
to marry a man young enough to be her son. The 
Greek poet was not bound to supply any explanation 
for this inexplicable procedure of hers, because he was 
only dramatizing a legend long familiar to the immense 


majority of the Athenian audience. The improbability 
being in the legend, it had to be in the drama dealing 
with the legend ; and Sophocles very wisely wasted no 
time in any effort to explain it away. Here he was 
shrewder than the modern poets who have handled 
the same myth, and who fatigued themselves in a vain 
attempt to make the improbable a little less improbable, 
with the sole result of forcing the spectators to notice 
something they might otherwise have taken for granted. 
These two arbitrary situations, the failure of (Edipus 
to pursue the slayer of Laius, and the marriage of lo- 
casta with a man many years her junior, — this is the 
foundation of the story. The two things may be im- 
possible to accept, but if we refuse to accept them, then 
we reject the play which is based on them. It was an 
interesting discovery of Sarcey's that an audience is 
never unduly exacting about the assumption on which 
a play is founded. It will listen to the exposition of a 
most unlikely state of affairs ; it will give its attention 
to the author while he sets forth the existence of two 
pairs of twins so alike that their own wives cannot 
tell them apart (as in the "Comedy of Errors"); or 
while he explains that a wandering Englishman iis 
the very image of the sovereign on the throne (as in 
the " Prisoner of Zenda"). It will sit back calmly and 
wait to see what will happen next, giving the author 
all the rope he asks for, but whether to hang himself 
or to pull himself on deck is as the event turns out. 
If the play which the author builds on an arbitrary 
supposition of this sort catches the interest of the spec- 
tators and holds them enthralled as the story unrolls 
itself, then they forget all about its artificial basis and 
they have no leisure to cavil. If, on the other hand, the 



play is dull and fatiguing to witness, their attention 
strays away from it and they have time to go back 
to its arbitrary foundation. And then they rise up in 
their wrath and denounce the foolishness of the author 
who dared to suppose that they could ever be interested 
in anything built upon an absurdity s 




Back of every art product there is a conception, vaguely or 
definitely present in the artist's mind. Upon the character of this 
conception or content depends the significance of the work of art; 
its formal beauty depends upon the artist's skill to express his thought 
or feeling in the particular medium he has chosen. Content and form 
are therefore most intimately related in the artist's personality. He 
can express nothing through the concrete medium of his particular 
art — whether it be a pigment or clay or a harmony of musical 
sounds or a succession of words — unless it has first passed through 
the lens of his own nature. It is always difficult, and in a certain sense 
unnatural, to make a sharp separation between the elements of con- 
tent and form. The artist himself rarely attempts it. He " thinks 
in color " or feels in terms of musical sound. The finer the work of 
art, the more indissolubly are the elements fused through the per- 
sonality of the artist. And yet it is often of the greatest value to the 
student to attempt this separate analysis, — to distinguish what 
has gone into the work of art from the external form in which it is 
clothed. — Bliss Perry, A Study of Prose Fiction. 

When we have witnessed the performance of a play 
in the theater, or when we have read it in the library, 
making the imaginative effort needful to visualize its 
action, we find ourselves either liking it or disliking it. 
We have an opinion as to its merits and its demerits ; 
but we may not be able to formulate this opinion to 
our satisfaction or to bring forward the several, reasons 
which have led us to it. We may wish to analyze the 
emotions we have experienced and to find justification 
for the faith that is in us. If the play pleased us, we 


want to know why it pleased ua. We may even go fur- 
ther and desire also to know whether our pleasure was 
legitimate or not. What was the source of it ? Is the 
play really as good as it seenied to us ? We may have 
felt that here was a drama that we ought to like, and 
yet thai it did not int««8t us ; and io that case, was the 
fault !u the play or m us ? On the other hand, we may 
have eujoyed it, having aU the whije a sneaking siupi- 
cion that it was not r^tUy worthy of our ^pnval. In 
short, what are the proper tests to apply Uiat we may 
each of us be assured of our own judgment P . 

The beginning of wisdom is hones^ with ounelvea. 
Our own m^sressions must always be the basis of our 
opinions, or we are certiun to be insincere and to weakot ' 
our grasp op reality. First of all,' did t^ play in- 
terest us^. V ao, whyP If it did not. why c&l it nt^? 
Interest iM lamcthing that can easily be gaged. If Ae 
play was actually seen in the theater, irheD did our 
attention b^i^ to flagP If it was only read in the li- 
brary, when did we fail to visualize the action and 
begin to skip as though in haste to be done with it ? Just 
here, use can be made of a device which may seem a 
little pedantic at first sight, but which is in fact practi- 
cal and helpful. We can make a diagram of the inter- 
est aroused in us as the play pfogressed, drawing a 
single line which shall rise with our increased attention, 
which shall run on a level when our attention slackens, 
and which shall droop when we admit ourselves to be 

This diagram of interest will mark and measure the 
path we have traveled. It is a visible record of our im- 
pressions, and it gives us a tangible foundation for fur- 
ther inquiry. It is wholly distinct from the artificial 


pyramid which Freytag exploited in his "Technie of the 
Drama"; and it has no relation to the needlessly com- 
plicated figures which have been devised to elucidate 
(or to obscure) Shakspere's plot-making. It is simplicity, 
itself, and yet it serves to bring before us graphically the 
immediate effect of the play upon ourselves. 

As the dramatist has carefully to attend to his expo- 
sition in the first act, to introduce his several characters, 
to inform us as to their past lives and as to their present 
desires, and, in a word, to get his machinery started, we 
need not be surprised if the line of interest is almost 
level in the earlier scenes. But it ought to begin to rise 
before the end of the first act. And it ought not to droop 
again until toward the end of the last act, flattening a 
little perhaps when the spectators are at last able to 
foresee just how the story is going to turn out. In a well- 
made modern play in three acts, the line of interest, 
broken into three pieces, is not likely to vary greatly 
from this : — 


This diagram would represent exactly the Increasing 
interest the average spectator would take in such a play, 
if he had kept his finger on his pulse, so to speak. A 
similar but unbroken line would serve to indicate the 
interest taken by the audience at the performance of a 
great Greek tragedy, except that it would rise more 
sharply and that it might fall off more emphatically 


toward the end, since the delicate artistic perception of 
the Greeks led them to relax the tension after the cul- 
minating moment. Here is the diagram of interest of 
the "(Edipus the King" of Sophocles: — 


"Whether it can be artistic," so Professor Bradley has 
declared, **to end any serious scene whatever at the point 
of greatest tension seems doubtful, but surely it is little short 
of barbarous to drop the curtain on the last dying words, 
or, it may be, the last convulsion, of a tragic hero. In tragedy, 
the Elizabethan practice, like the Greek, was to lower the 
pitch of emotion from this point by a few quiet words . . . 
and so to restore the audience to common life, *in calm of 
mind, all passion spent.' '* 

There is a modern play, akin to this masterpiece of 
the Greek drama, in its somber gloom and in its inex- 
orable inevitability. This is Ibsen's " Ghosts"; but the 
Scandinavian playwright refused to relax the tension 
at the end. He even prolonged it beyond the limits of 
the play, leaving us wondering what happened after the 
final curtain fell. So we may represent its line of inter- 
est thus : — 



In "Hamlet," the interest is constantly ascending 
from the very beginning, that admirably effective open- 
ing scene on the battlements of Elsinore, which carries 
us at once into an atmosphere of impending doom ; but 
it wavers a little in the fourth act and it flattens off al- 
most in the Greek fashion after the death of Hamlet 
himself. This then would be the diagram : — 


In "Othello," the exposition is also swift and grip- 
ping ; and the attention is held all through the first act. 
But in the second act, the story shifts to Cyprus ; and 
several scenes elapse before the dramatist can key up 
the action to the same pitch of intensity. When he does 
achieve this at last, he is able to intensify our interest 
by every succeeding episode almost to the final word. 
And this is made clear in the diagram : — 



Victor Hugo, in two of his plays, "Hemani" and 
" Ruy Bias," was so far negligent of cumulative effect 



that his fourth acts were filled with matter not closely 
knit into the central theme. And it is therefore not un- 
fair to disclose this defect in the diagram of " Uemani, " 
thus: ^ 


and in that of "Ruy Bias," thus: 



This diagram makes clear the reason why the English 
adaptation, acted by Fechter and Edwin Booth, was 
in four acts only, — the uninteresting act being boldly 

In the "Weavers" of Hauptmann, one of the most 
striking of social-dramas, there is unity of impression 
but no concentration of story. The several acts have 
each of them an interest of their own; but, as a whole, 
the plot is not coherent or cumulative. And this is dis- 
closed at once in the diagram : — 


Now and again we happen upon a play which is 
frankly disappointing and which is quite unable to hold 



our interest whether on the stage or in the study. And 
then we might be forced to a discouraging diagram like 
this : — 


or even to another, still more condemnatory : — 


This translation into a diagram of our fluctuating 
interest in a play is a test primarily only of the skill of 
the playmaker. It is a test of the form of the piece and 
not of its content ; for every work of art is to be judged 
by its form as well as by its content. The great plays 
are great only because a worthy content is presented 
in a worthy form. The dramatist must do his best to 
arouse and to hold the interest of the spectators before 
whom his play is performed. And the merit of any mes- 
sage he may have to deliver does not excuse him for any 
failure to master the technic of the dramaturgic art. K 
he prefers to express himself dramatically, then he must 
abide bv the decision of the theater. From that there is 
for him no appeal, since an audience of his own con- 
temporaries is the tribunal he has himself chosen. He 
may have a message of high importance, he may have 
his own vision of human life, he may have his own phi- 
losophy ; but these things he can present in a play only 
after he has acquired the craft of the playwright. And 
the value of his subject-matter will not excuse him for 


any technical deficiencies. He must master the methods 
of the stage of his own time, adjusting his story to the 
actor and to the theater, and keeping in mind aln'ays the 
opinions and the prejudices of the audience for whose 
pleasure he is working. 

The dominant peculiarity of a body of spectators 
assembled in a tlieater is their unwillingness to be inter- 
ested unless they have presented to them a story which 
discloses an essential struggle, an assertion of human 
volition, a cl&sh of contending desires. This essential 
struggle, whether comic or tragic, must be the core of 
the play: it must be sharply visible; or else the attention 
of the audience will wander. If we are moved by any 
performance to make diagram I or diagram J. we shall 
probably find that the play thus disparaged lacked an 
essential struggle, that the characters did not know 
their own minds, and that things seemed merely to hap- 
pen and not to be brought about by the Ic^ic of char- 
acter and circumstance. If we find ourselves led to 
malce diagram H, we may be assured that the play 
had no dominating figure, and that the struggle was 
fragmentary and not concentrated and coordinated. 
If we consider carefully the plays for which diagrams 
E, F, and G were made, we can easily discover that the 
level or dropping lines were due to a straying away 
from the essential struggle, to a momentary wandering 
into a by-path, after the dramatist had indicated to U3 
the main road along which he promised to travel. 

Yet diagrams not unlike E and F and G would have 
to be made for the plays of many of the Elizabethan 
dramatists, especially for cert^n of those credited to 


Beaumont and Fletcher, — because these authors were 
able to obtain their startlingly effective situations only 
by an arbitrary change in one or more of their charac- 
ters. It is disconcerting to us nowadays — whatever it 
may have been to Elizabethan playgoers — to see an 
important character do or say something which we feel 
he never would have done or said. We cannot help 
applying the standard of common sense, of normal 
human conduct. And when a character fails to attain 
this standard, when we see him doing something which 
he would not naturally do, something which is in con- 
tradiction with all we know about his motives, then we 
have our attention violently distracted. We are forced 
for the moment to consider this deed ; and thus we lose 
contact with the play as it is going on before us. 

Our interest may fall for yet another reason not quite 
so simple to grasp. The author may have avoided the 
arbitrary and he may have stuck to his main story, but 
without presenting in action all the special scenes which 
he had led us to expect, the seines a faire^ as Sarcey 
called them. If he has suppressed these or shirked 
them, then we find ourselves disconcerted, as though 
deprived of a promised pleasure. We do not always 
know exactly what it is that we have been defrauded 
of, but we are vaguely conscious that all is not as it 
should be. Thus our attention is again distracted, al- 
though it is only by taking thought that we can discover 
the special scene which we had hoped for and did not 
get. Here a diagram reveals its utility. It tells us just 
where it was that the interest fell off and it points out 
the precise spot where we must seek the explanation. 
A supreme test of dramaturgic instinct lies in the choice 
of those parts of the plot which shall be shown in action 


and those which sliall be merely narrated. Goethe re- 
vealed his deficiency in the native gift of plajinaking in 
his version of " Romeo and .luliet," wherein he omitted 
the actual quarrel between the Montagues and the Cap- 
ulets and contented bimseKwith telling about it instead 
of putting it visibly before the spectators. 

Another cause of relaxing interest js the use of out- 
worn traditions, of temporary conventions no longer 
acceptable to us, even if they were satisfactory enough 
to an earlier generation of playgoers. The permanent 
conventions we are glad to allow always, since by deny- 
ing them we should be depriving ourselves. But there 
are temporary conventions, which correspond to tempo- 
rary theatrical conditions and which begin to strike us 
as absurd as soon as these theatrical conditions have 
changed. For example, a device, now so outworn that 
it is likely to raise a smile and thu.s to break the cur- 
rent of sympathy, is eavesdropping. When we see a 
gentleman concealing himself deliberately behind a 
curt^n, to overhear the conversation of two ladies, 
we feel that this is an act of which he ought not to be 
guilty. He loses our regard and the play suffers immedi- 
ately. It was the duty of the dramatist to invent some 
less obvious method of putting this gentleman in posses- 
sion of the information thus improperly obtained. The 
audience is ever applying the standard of good man- 
oers as well as the standard of common sense. 

Another source of distracted attention is to be sought 
in the uneasiness which spectators sometimes feel 
when they find that the play they are witnessing does 
not belong to the type which Uiey had been led to 


expect. A good farce afipords amusement to many; 
and farce itself is a perfectly legitimate type. But when 
we are invited to a comedy-of-manners, or when a play 
begins as though it was a comedy-of-manners, and then 
degenerates into farce and turns out to be quite different 
from what it had at first declared itself to be, then we 
are likely to be (Jisconcerted. Naturally, we are tempted 
to apply to this farce the standards proper enough to 
the comedy-of-manners and not to those of the farce it- 
self ; and the result is unsatisfactory. Sooner or later, 
we may make a mental readjustment, and take the 
farce for what it is and not for what we had supposed 
it to be; but in the meanwhile, we have felt a certain 

So it is that when we go to see a poetic play, a tragedy, 
whether in prose or verse, we apply the standards 
proper to tragedy, and we expect to be thrilled by the 
deeds of men and women governed by the stern logic 
of their own characters. The sadness of tragedy is 
due to the pity of it, to our feeling that it had to be 
what it is, and that the catastrophe was all foredoomed 
by fate. Our pleasure may be austere, but it is noble, 
and it depends upon the artistic honesty of the poet. 
It is his duty to make us sympathize with the characters 
who are battling with destiny, who are doing their best, 
and who are waging a losing fight. And we are swift 
to perceive and to resent any arbitrary intervention of 
the author, whereby his tragic figures lose their large 
humanity and sink into mere puppets pulled here and 
there by the visible hand of the playwright. 

Here we find an explanation for the doubt which 
often obsesses us after we have witnessed the perform- 
ance of a poetic play. We recognize the poetry; we 


cannot deny the fine quality of the writing; and yet we 
wonder why it is that the play has left us cold. Our 
modesty may even make us believe that Ihc fault is in 
us and that we ourselves may be incapable of appre- 
cUting a work of art at once delicate and noble. We 
know what we like, after all, and we are aware that this 
drama did not ^ve us the pleasure proper to the theater. 
Of course, the fault may be in us ; but in the case of 
Browning's " Blot in the 'Scutcheon," for examjde, the 
fault is in the author. If we have failed to enjoy his 
play, the blame must lie at his door, because he has' 
not been able to sustun his tragedy on the lofty tragic 
levd. The discredit for the future of a play of high 
aspiration b very rarely to be borne by the audiences. 
It must be assumed, more often than not, by the drar 
matist himself, because he has not really given us what 
he thought he was ^ving us. 

As the Fraich painter put it pithily to his American 
colleague: "True art is a method of expression, done 
by a man who has something to say in poetry or prose, 
p^nt or clay," It is not sudicient that he have some- 
thing to say; he must also master the method of ex- 
pression which he has chosen. He must say what he 
has to say in such fashion that we cannot choose but 
hear. He must deliver his message so appealingly that 
we are glad to listen to it, even if we may be unwilling 
to accept it. He must remember always that the con- 
tent of his work will avail him little or nothing if the 
form of it is not also satisfying to the main body of his 


Closely akin to this necessary veracity of character- 
delineation is the larger truth of the play as a whole. 


Is this portrayal of our common humanity in accord, 
not only with the logic of the several characters intro- 
duced, but also with the manners and customs of the 
time? Is it true to life as we all know life? We are 
disappointed if we fail to find the accent of verity in 
what purports to be a picture of existence as it is. If 
this accent of verity is lacking in a serious drama or 
in a high-comedy, the principle of Economy of Atten- 
tion is violated at once. We cease following the story 
on the stage while we look at each other with dumb 
inquiry. We find ourselves asking who these strange 
creatures are that behave in this curious fashion, re- 
fusing to play the game of human intercourse accord- 
ing to the established rules. 

Mr. Henry James once suggested as a test of the rank 
of a novel that we ask ourselves whether it aroused in 
us the emotions of surprise or the emotions of recog- 
nition. If it amuses us only by the ingenuity of its story 
and by the startling effect of its unexpected incidents, 
it stands on a lower plane than if it please us by reveal- 
ing unsuspected recesses of the human soul, which we 
accept as veracious although we had never before per- 
ceived them. The same test is as valid in the theater 
as in the library; and in a serious drama, as well as in a 
high-comedy, mere surprise must always be subordinate 
to the subtler recognition. We expect the dramatist 
to explain us to ourselves and to turn his lantern on the 
hidden corners of character, whether tragic or comic. 
WTien we see a personage in a play do this, or when we 
hear him say that, we ought to feel instantly that how- 
ever unforeseen the deed or the saying may be, it was 
precisely what that personage would have done or said 
at that particular moment of his life. 


Of course, we are not juslified in applying this test 
to the humbler forms of the drama, perfetfly legilimate 
as they are, but dwelling on a lower level. We have no 
more right to expect the emotions of recognition in a 
melodrama or in a farce than we have in a detective- 
story or in a tale of adventure. In these humbler forms 
of prose-fiction and of the drama, the story itself, the 
successive situations, the plot, are of primary impor- 
tance: and they awaken chiefly the emotions of sur- 
prise. The characters exist for the sake of the story : the 
atory is not created by the characters moved by their 
own volition. When we go to a farce or a melodrama, 
we cannot justly expect to discover in them the essential 
qualities of serious drama or light comedy. We ought 
to be satisfied if the author has given us the essential 
qualities of farce or of melodrama. 

The playgoer is disconcerted when the story repre- 
sented before his eyes on the stage is peopled by char- 
acters who seem to him unreal and untrue to them- 
selves. But he is willing enough to accept any frank 
departure from the actual; he is not insistent on the 
mere facts of life. If he can get the deeper truth, he has 
no objections to make believe if he is invited to do so; 
he is willing enough to accept the supernatiiral, for 
example, and to follow with unflagging interest the 
actions and the words of ghosts, of witches, and of 
fjuries, although he refuses to credit the actual exist- 
ence of any such beings. All he demands is that these 
non-existent creatures shall be represented as obeying 
the law of their own being. He knows well enough that 
the story of the "Midsummer Night's Dream" never 


happened and that it is not in accord with the facts of 
life. But he accepts it as artistically true, since the 
fairies in that delightful fantasy are seen to do pre- 
cisely what he imagines fairies would do if there were 
any fairies. So he does not cavil at the Ghost in " Ham- 
let" or at the Witches in "Macbeth," because their 
words and their deeds are just what might be expected 
from such creatures. The spectator accepts them for 
what they are in the play, so long as they comport 
themselves as he conceives such weird embodiments 
would comport themselves. He is glad to adventure 
himself in a realm of fantasy; but he expects its in- 
habitants to be bound by its own legal code. In other 
words, essential veracity has no relation to the mere 
actuality of every-day existence. It is the permanent 
truth that the audience expects, not the accidental fact. 

And this leads us to a consideration of the question 
of the moral influence of a work of art. Morality enters 
into art only when art deals with human conduct, when 
it sets before us that which may have an influence 
upon our own acts. Music, architecture, pure decora- 
tion, landscape and marine painting, and also the 
poetry which is only music or decoration, — these forms 
of art have no moral quality. They lie wholly outside 
of the domain of ethics. But the lyric of human feel- 
ing, epic poetry, prose-fiction, the drama, — these are 
forms of art which deal directly with human passions ; 
and therefore they cannot evade moral responsibility. 
Whenever an artist is dealing with human beings, he 
is subject to the moral law ; and he must be judged by 
the ultimate effect of his portrayal of life. In man, and 
in man only, is morality bound up. 

This is why we do not protest against the customary 


poppet-play of ** Panch and Judy," which we allow our 
childrai to laugh at. Considered by any human stand- 
ard of conduct, this little drama is hideously immoral, 
for it sets before us a career of triumphant and self- 
satisfied crime. We behold Punch rejoicing in a series 
of atrocious assassinaticms; he kills his baby; he mur- 
ders his wife; he slays the polic^oian; he hangs the 
haiigman ; and finally he beats the life out of the Devil 
himself. And throughout the long succession of evil, 
deeds. Fundi remains smilingly cheerful, wholly un- 
conscious of hb own total depravity. And this is the 
reason why the little play is not really immoral. It has 
no possible relation to mankind ; and we never dream of 
applying to Punch, only a little figure animated by the 
hand of the concealed performer, the strict code of 
human conduct. Punch stands outside the circle of 
our common humanity; we do not accept him as one 
of oursdves; and his example carries no weight. 

If the lamentable tragedy of Punch is morally in- 
nocuous, can the same plea be made for other plays, 
such as the British pantomimes at Christmas, and the 
American musical -shows, peopled with beings of a fan- 
tastic unreality? Probably there is a certain validity 
in this plea. These pantomimes and these musical- 
shows are absurdly remote from life as we all know it ; 
and they contain a very large element of fantasy. And 
yet they are performed by men and women, after all, 
not by puppets; and it is impossible for them wholly 
to escape from the jurisdiction of the moral law. It 
was this plea that Charles Lamb put forward in behalf 
of the English comedy of the Restoration. He admitted 
that it was immoral, if tried by the ordinary code of 
human conduct ; but he insisted that the characters of 


Congreve and Wycherley were so far removed from 
reality, they showed so contorted a vision of life, that 
they were no more human than Punch. " The whole is 
a passing pageant, where we should sit as unconcerned 
at the issues of life or death, as at the battle of frogs 
and mice," so liamb asserted, after having declared 
that he confessed himself " glad for a reason to take 
an airing beyond the diocese of the strict conscience/' 
Lamb presented his paradox with all his frolicsome 
humor ; but none the less it is a paradox, as Macaulay 
had no diflSculty in proving. Perhaps Lamb himself 
could sit as unconcerned before the unlovely intrigues 
of Congreve's gallants and fine ladies as at the battle 
of frogs and mice ; but the rest of us cannot attain to 
this fanciful detachment. After all, these gallants and 
these fine ladies are human beings, going about their 
affairs, and differing only in the callousness of their arid 
souls. They cannot subtract themselves from the juris- 
diction of the moral law, by renouncing " any preten- 
sions of goodness or good feelings whatsoever." We 
feel them to be flesh and blood with us ; and we apply 
to them property enough the standard of morals. 


To say that the English comic dramatists of the 
Restoration are immoral, because their plays convey 
a totally misleading impression of life, is a very diflFer- 
ent thing from saying that they are blameworthy be- 
cause their comic pieces are not explicitly moral. The 
playwright is never called upon to be a preacher. The 
direct inculcation of morality in the drama or in prose- 
fiction is bad art. Charles Lamb justly complained 
of the writers who insisted on tagging a moral to their 


tales, ** like the God send the good ship safe into harbor 
of the old bills of lading." We have cast aside the an- 
tiquated theory of poetic-justice, so-called, which prac- 
tically required a playwright to endeavor to prove 
that vice always comes to a bad end. This doctrine 
obtained generally in the eighteenth century; and we 
can find it declared emphatically in the English trans- 
lation of d'Aubignac, in 1684 : — 

" One of the chiefest, and indeed the most indispensable 
Rule of Drammatick Poems, is, that in them Virtues ought 
always to be rewarded or at least commended, in spight of 
all the Injuries of Fortune; and that likewise Vices be always 
punished, or at least detested with Horrour, though they 
triuniph upon the stage for that time." 

The doctrine of poetic-justice demanded that the 
cirama should be overtly didactic, even at the cost of 
departing from the truth of life. We all know that vice 
does not always come to a bad end in this world, what- 
ever may happen to it in the next. We all know, also, 
that if the author persists in blackening his evil char- 
acters, he may end by arousing our sympathy for them 
as victims of persecution; and it seems as though 
Thackeray had not quite escaped this blunder in his 
insistent unfairness to Becky Sharp. Bret Harte told 
us of a Californian who contemplated Hogarth's series 
of engravings contrasting the careers of the Idle and 
Industrious Apprentices, and who was moved with an 
irresistible feeling in favor of the one whom the moral- 
ist had condemned. It seemed to him, he said, that 
"the cards had been stacked against that fellow from 
the start." And in a work of art, this is ever the danger 
of a paraded moral purpose, external rather than inter- 
nal, not inherent in the theme but applied to it from the 


outside. Stevenson spoke of the morality which is 
thrust into n|0,ny an English novel ."like a carpet 
thrown over a railing/' 

We have outgrown the demand for this sign-post 
preaching. The artist cannot evade his moral respon- 
sibility, if he chooses to handle human life ; but he is 
no longer required to get up into the pulpit. It is not 
the artist's business to prove a thesis, but to picture 
life as he sees it and feels it and knows it. His attitude 
has been stated admirably by Shelley in the preface to 
the"Cenci": — 

"The highest moral purpose aimed at in the highest 
species of the drama is the teaching of the human heart, 
through its sympathies and antipathies, the knowledge of 
itself; in proportion to the possession of which knowledge, 
every human being is wise, just, sincere, tolerant and kind." 

To teach the human heart the knowledge of itself 
— this is a lofty aim ; and it can be attained only by 
resolute honesty in dealing with the problems of con- 
duct. The artist must ever be sincere with himself. 
He must tell the truth as it is given to him to see 
the truth, to tell nothing but the truth, — even if he 
is not bound always to tell the whole truth, because 
it is not given to any man to grasp the whole truth. 
That he is privileged and empowered to do this is 
the supreme happiness of the artist. " The conscious 
moralist often seems rather stupid and arbitrary," so 
Professor Gilbert Murray remarks ; " the poet has the 
immense advantage that he is not trying to say what 
he believes to be good for other people, or what he be- 
lieves they believe to be good for them, but is simply 
expressing what he himself loves most." 

Although the dramatist need not put morality into 


his plays, he cannot leave it out, since it is an essen- 
tial couslituent element of any truthful portrayal of 
life. But he need not take thought about it. His work 
will have ethical validity in proportion as his own 
vision of life is truthful. While the dramatic author 
can never appear on the stage in his own person, and 
while he cannot speak for himself, commenting on his 
characters as the novelist may if he chooses, there is 
no literary form in which the author expresses him- 
self more completely than he does in the drama. Shak- 
spere does not intervene in the action, as Thackeray 
does, to hold confidential colloquy with us; and yet 
Shakspere's philosophy is quite as clear to us as Thack- 
eray's. Moliere the man, with his abhorrence of af- 
fectation, with his hatred of hypocrisy, with his gentle 
and alluring humanity, stands revealed in his plays, 
although we have not a single letter of his to take us 
into his confidence ; and his correspondence, if we had 
it, would not substitute another portrait for that which 
rises before us after a study of his plays. As George 
Sand once wrote to Flaubert : " Real painting is full of 
the soul which impels the brush." And a truthful 
painter of human life cannot hope to hide his own 
soul, however adroitly he may think that he has con- 
cealed it. 

Here is another reason for a sudden diminution of 
interest as we follow a play. The author may have 
begun voraciously enough, only to yield at last to the 
temptation of contaminating truth and of contorting 
it for the sake of quick effect. If we perceive this, we 
resent it ; and the stronger our feeling the more certainly 
is our sympathetic attention diminished. We expected 
the bread of life; and we find ourselves put off with a 


stone. It needs to be noted also that even veracity may 
momentarily disconcert us, if it pierces deeper than we 
relish. The author may have a wider knowledge and a 
deeper vision; and he may go searchingly below the 
surface, disclosing things ugly and abhorrent. This 
may shock us, but what shocks us is not necessarily im- 
moral. Very often, indeed, it is profoundly moral, with 
the particular morality which we happen most to need. 
Morality is not in the choice of subject-matter, else 
would " (Edipus " and " Othello," the " Scarlet Letter" 
and "Anna Karenina" be immoral. It is in treatment, 
in the stern firmness which braces the soul for combat 
with evil, or in the looseness of tone which tends to re- 
lax the fiber.' It is not in the avoidance of dangerous 
topics that morality lies, but in the temper with which 
they are treated. 

So it is that in a real work of art, there is no one ob- 
vious moral ; there are as many separate morals as there 
are spectators of that work. Every man finds his own 
moral for himself, as he gages the total effect on him- 
self, whether he is ethically strengthened or weakened 
by that work of art. Sarcey declared that, after seeing a 
certain play by the younger Dumas, — a piece which 
most English-speaking spectators would not be likely 
to find ethically stimulating, — " it is difficult not to 
take home with you a wish to examine your conscience 
and a certain disquieting wonder as to the result; this 
is the sign by which we can know a truly moral work." 



Forty poeb, amonj^t them ten of superior rank, as well as one. 
the grratest of all artists who have represented the soul in worda; 
many hundreds of piecres, and nearly fifty masterpieces; the drama 
extended over all tLe provmces of history, imagination, and fancy, 
— expanded so as to embrace comedy, tragedy, pastoral and fanci- 
fui literature, — to represent al! degrees of human coudittoD, and all 
the caprices of human invention, — to express all the perceptible 
detuls of actual truth, and all the philosophic grandeur of general 
reflection; the sta^ disencumbered of all precept and freed from 
all imitation, given up and appropriated in the minutest particulars 
to the reigning taste and public intelligence: all this whs a vast 
and manifold work, capable by its flexibility, its greatness, and its 
form, of receiving and preserving the exact imprint of the age and 
ol tlie nation. — H. Taine, History oj English Literatart. 

There have been four or five periods id history wheo 
the drama has risen to a supreme height. The first of 
these' was in Greece when iEschylus, Sophocles and' 
Euripides, Aristophanes and Menander, followed one 
another in swift succession. The second and the third 
were almost simultaneous in England and in Spain, 
when Marlowe, Shakspere, and Ben Jonson led the 
way in the one language, while Lope de Vega and Cal- 
deron revealed the lyrical richness of the other. The 
fourth was in France, when Moliere followed Comeille 
and preceded Racine. And we may perhaps add a fifth 
period, in France again, in the middle of the nineteenth 
century, when Victor Hugo and the elder Dumas were 
followed by Augier and liie younger Diuaas. 


Each of these epochs of superb playmaking has its 
own characteristics; and each of them will amply re- 
ward lifelong study. Yet for us who have English as 
our mother-tongue, there is no doubt which is the 
most interesting of the five. It is that splendid expres- 
sion of the poetic power of our race, which took place in 
the spacious days of Elizabeth, and which died down 
in the leaner years of James. In any study of the drama 
among us, the plays of Shakspere and of his gifted 
contemporaries must always be the center of our in- 

There is no denying that the dominant character- 
istic of the English-speaking race is energy, and that 
this energy never expressed itself in literature more 
completely than it did in the later years of Elizabeth's 
reign. There was then the most abundant revelation of 
the power and passion of this sturdy people, the most 
magnificent luxuriance of its essential imagination, and 
a sudden outflowering of the vigor of a hardy and pro- 
lific stock. And above all the turmoil of those glorious 
days, there towered aloft the genius of Shakspere. 
Small wonder is it that many lovers of literature have 
been blinded by the effulgence of all this genius, and 
have closed their eyes to all except its glory, unable to 
perceive anything but absolute perfection. So long have 
we made a habit of using a megaphone to proclaim 
its manifest and manifold beauties, that a microphone 
would suffice for our infrequent and unwilling admis- 
sions that all was not equally faultless in this splendid 
era. Some of us still recall the shock of surprise with 
which we first happened upon a passage in one of 
Matthew Arnold's essays, seeming to suggest that there 
might be weak places in Shakspere's works, and that 


even his genius did not always maintain him at the 
topmost pinnacle of transcendent achievement. 

But to adopt an attitude of insistent admiration is 
to renounce the privilege and the duty of criticism, as 
Gautier did when he declared that, if ever he found a 
single line of Hugo's to fall short in any way, he would 
not confess it to himself alone, in a cellar, on a dark 
night. We deny ourselves the pleasure of knowing 
wherein the Elizabethan poets are truly mighty, if we 
give them all credit for all possible excellence, or if we 
carelessly fail to see clearly that even the mightiest of 
them does not always sustain himself at his highest 
level. The work of the great Elizabethans is what 
it is ; and for that we love it. But also it is not what it 
is not; and we ought to be honest enough not to claim 
for it the qualities which it lacks, and which it could 
not have because they are inconsistent with those it 
actually has. Largeness of vision it has, and depth of 
insight, and the gift of life itself, and many another 
manifestation of the energy of the race. These posses- 
sions are beyond question ; and yet, because it possesses 
these qualities, because it has sweep, and penetration, 
youthful daring, and robust vitality, it is often vio- 
lent, often trivial, often grotesque. Reckless and ill- 
restrained, it is likely to be wanting in taste and lacking 
in logic. Energy it has above all things else, and a 
compelling imaginative fire; but balance and propor- 
tion it rarely reveals. Infrequently do we find symmetry 
and harmony, — qualities somewhat incompatible with 
the wastefulness of efi*ort always characteristic of this 
masterful people. 

More than any other group of the Elizabethans, have 
the dramatists suffered from this practice of indiscrim- 


inate praise and from the absence of measured apprecia- 
tion. Sometimes it seems as though the commentators 
have chosen wilfully to shut their eyes to everything 
they would wish away. They have made no effort to 
free themselves from the spell of Lamb's contagious en- 
thusiasm ; and they have not resisted the evil influence of 
the extravagant eulogy habitual with Swinburne, whose 
overpowering rhetoric once bade fair to have as perni- 
cious an effect on literary criticism as Ruskin's over- 
powering rhetoric had for a while upon criticism of 
painting. As Ruskin misled many and discouraged 
more, who, under wiser guidance, might have learned 
in time to take keen pleasure in the painter's art, so 
Swinburne by his indiscriminate overpraise must have 
repelled many a reader who might have been lured into 
a liking for the real value of the Elizabethan dramatic 
poets, if this had been set forth modestly. 

Many commentators and critics yield themselves up 
to be hypnotized by the dramatic poet they are dealing 
with, crediting him with a host of merits and refusing to 
counterbalance their commendation by allowing weight 
even to such demerits as they are compelled to record. 
An amusing instance of this abdication of the critical 
function can be found in the introduction to a recent 
edition of "Old Fortunatus," in which the editor is 
permitted to say that this comedy of Dekker's, " though 
containing numberless faults in construction, in weak 
and ineffective character-drawing, and in improbable 
psychological deduction, is nevertheless one of the 
greatest of Elizabethan dramas." Surely, this is the 
very negation of criticism, to call a piece containing 
"numberless faults" one of the "greatest of dramas." 
Such writing is disheartening, not to term it dishonest. 


The truth is that " Old Fortunatus" is only a narrative 
in dialogue; it has little dramaturgic merit; its char- 
acter-drawing is mere prentice-work ; and it pleases be- 
cause of its primitive unpretentiousness and its fleeting 
glimpses of poetry; It has none of the broad humor or 
of the hearty veracity of character which lends charm to 
its author's "Shoemaker's Holiday," a brisk comedy 
of the contemporary life of London, which the sturdy 
author knew so well and relished so keenly. 


In considering the lack of playmaking skill, abun- 
dantly evident in the works of the Elizabethan poets, 
two points must ever be borne in mind. The first of 
these is that the literary form which happens to be pop- 
ular and therefore profitable, in any period, attracts to 
it many who have little or no native gift for that special 
art. In the nineteenth century, for example, the vogue 
of the novel was overwhelming; and many a man of 
letters who had but a small share of the narrative fac- 
ulty undertook to express himself in fiction. So, at the 
end of the sixteenth century, the drama was the one 
field in which an aspiring genius might hope to make 
money ; and it is not surprising, therefore, to find only a 
few among all the mass of Elizabethan dramatic poets 
who either were born playwrights, or willingly took the 
trouble, by dint of hard work, to master the secrets 
of the craft. Chapman, for one, had no natural bent 
toward the theater ; and Webster, for another, for all his 
striving after the horrible, does not prove his possession 
of the native endowment of the instinctive playmaker. 
Chapman and Webster were poets, beyond all question ; 
but they were not born playwrights. 


The second point to be kept in memory is that the 
dramatic art was not highly esteemed in Elizabeth's 
time. The theater was a means whereby a poet might 
earn his living ; but plays were scarcely held to be litera- 
ture ; they were devised only to satisfy the two hours'traf- 
fic of the stage ; they were looked down upon by men of 
letters, much as journalism is looked down upon to-day. 
Accustomed as we are to consider the drama as the 
chief glory of Elizabethan literature, we do not always 
remember that the Elizabethans themselves scarcely 
held it to be literature at all. Nothing is more significant 
of this contemporary opinion than the fact that Shak- 
spere corrected the proof of his two narrative poems 
carefully, while he gave no thought to the printing of 
his plays, carelessly abandoning the manuscripts to his 
comrades of the theater. One result of this contemptu7 
ous attitude toward the drama was that the poet was 
not held to any high standard, and that what Vas good 
enough for the rude playgoing public of those turbulent 
times was often good enough for the playwright himself. 

Perhaps it is well also to note a third point, the re- 
calling of which will help us to understand certain of the 
dramaturgic deficiencies of those days ; and this is that 
the drama had not yet come into its own. It was still 
imperfectly differentiated ; it had not disengaged itself 
from elements wholly undramatic. Just as the Greek 
drama in the time of iEschylus retained a lyrical ele- 
ment which often delayed the movement of the play 
itself, so the English drama in the time of Shakspere 
had not freed itself from elements which had nothing to 
do with the setting of a story on the stage. It needs to 
be remembered that, in those early days, the theater 
was not only the theater ; it was also, to a certain extent. 




the newspaper, the Iwture-hatl, and even the pulpit. So 
it is that we fiud the draiuatic poet sometimes halting 
fain plot to deliver a lecture or a sermon, which his audi- 
enee received gladly, but which clogged the movement 
of his action, and which is seen now to be a hindrance 
to the artistic shaping of his plot. 

Here we touch the connection between the drama as 
it was under Elizabeth and the drama as it had been 
under Henry VIH and bis predecessors. An Eliza- 
bethan playhouse was open to the air; it got its light 
from the sky; ils stage, encumbered with spectators, 
had no drop-curtain and no scenery; its methods were 
those of llie mystcrj- performed in the market-place and 
(he churchyard. There is really very little difference in 
structure between the miracle-play of the later Middle 
Ages and the chronicle-play of Elizabeth's youth. If 
the method of the elder is medieval, the method of the 
younger is semi-medieval, to say the least. It could not 
be anything else until the roofed and lighted theater 
came into being, with its separating drop-curtain and 
its realistic scenery. There was no modem theater in 
London until after the Restoration ; and so it b that the 
Elizabethan drama could not be modern ; it had to re- 
main at least semi-medieval even in its loftiest efforts. 
It was not the fault of the Elizabethan drama that it 
had not the severe simplicity of the ancients or the neat 
dexterity of the moderns; but there is no denying that it 
had neither, and that it could not have them. 

And when we consider what were the actual circum- 
stances of performance in the Globe Theater, our 
wonder is not that the structure of Shakspere's plays 
is often straggling and slovenly, but rather that the 
great dramatist was ever able to attain to a more orderly 



conduct of his plot, such as he did achieve in " Othello " 
and in " Macbeth." Perhaps, indeed, there is no better 
proof of the might of Shakspere's genius than this, — 
that now and again he was able to overcome conditions, 
which seem to be unconquerable, and to produce a play 
which endures for all time even though it was originally 
adjusted adroitly to the circumstances of performance 
upon a semi-medieval stage. 

Furthermore, the Elizabethan dramatist not only put 
his plays together in conformity with the customary 
methods of representation that obtained in the Eliza- 
bethan theater, he also kept in mind always the audi- 
ence before which they were to be produced. It was for 
the playgoer of the present that he exerted himself; it 
was not for the reader of the future. The absence of 
critical standards and the contempt of the acted drama, 
account for many of the defects of the plays of that 
renowned period; but the chief cause is ever to be 
sought in the necessity of pleasing a special public, prob- 
ably far more brutal in its longings than any other to 
which a great dramatist has had to appeal. The Athe- 
nians, for whom Sophocles built his massive and austere 
tragedies, and the Parisians, for whom Moliere painted 
the humorous portrait of his fellow-burghers, — these 
were quite other than the mob before whom Shakspere 
had to set his studies from life, a mob stout of stom- 
ach for sheer horrors, and shrinking from no atrocity.' 
It is the Elizabethan public which is mainly respon- 
sible for the fact that the Elizabethan drama, glorious 
as it is with splendid episodes, taken separately, has 
only a few masterpieces, only a few plays the conduct of 
which does not continually disappoint even a cordial 
reader. As M. Jusserand has pointed out, with the 


calm sanity which is characteristic of French criticism, 
it is not difficult to select many " luminous parts, scenes 
brilliant or tragic, moving passages, characters solidly 
^t on their feet," but il is verj' rare indeed to find com- 
plete wholes sustained as a lofty level of art, "plays 
entirely satisfactory, strongly conceived, firmly knit 
together, carried to an inevitable conclusion." 

Why take the trouble to knit a story strongly and 
to deduce its inevitable conclusion, when the public 
the play had to please cared nothing for this artistic 
victory? Not only did the playgoers of those days 
find no fault with the lack of plausibility in the conduct 
of the story, with sudden and impossibly quick changes 
in character, with coincidences heaped up and with ar- 
bitrary artificialities accucnulated ; but these, indeed, 
were the very qualities they most enjoyed. They pre- 
ferred the unusual, the unexpected, the illogical; and 
it was to behold startling turns of fortune and to get 
the utmost of surprise that they went to the theater. 
We are now annoyed by the huddling of two and three 
stories into a single play, wholly unconnected, the 
joyous and the gruesome side by side, and in no wise 
tied together ; but to them, this was entirely satisfactory, 
for it gave them variety, and this was what they were 
seeking. We must always be ready to " make believe." 
when we surrender- ourselves to the charm of these 
semi-medieval poet playwrights. 

No doubt, there were gallants sitting on the stage 
who had a tincture of cultivation ; and there must have 
been other men of education in the rooms of the gal- 
lery. But the most of those who stood in the yard be- 


low were unable to write or to read. Among them were 
discharged soldiers home from the wars, sailors from 
the ships of Frobisher and Drake, runaway apprentices, 
and all the riffraff and rabble of a seaport town which 
happened also to be the capital of an expanding nation. 
They were violent in their likings, with a constant 
longing for horse-play and ribaldry, and with a persis- 
tent hankering after scenes of lust and gore. They 
were used to cock-fighting and bear-baiting and bull- 
baiting; and these brutal sports were shown some- 
times within the very building where on other occasions 
there were performances of those raw tragedies-of- 
blood, the plays which could best stir the nerves of 
so tumultuous a public. These supporters of the stage 
were used to battle, murder, and sudden death, not only 
in the theater, but in daily life, for there were scores of 
public executions every year; and in those spectacular 
times, the headsman of the Tower was a busy man, with 
his ghastly trophies frequently renewed on the spikes 
above the gate. 

The pressure of the main body of playgoers upon the 
playwrights was not unwholesome then, as it is not 
unwholesome now, in so far as it led the dramatic poets 
to avoid preciosity and to eschew style-mongering, — in 
so far as it forced them to deal directly with life, and to 
handle passion boldly and amply. But the playgoers 
of those days had cruder likings also ; they craved con- 
stant excitement, both for the eye and for the ear ; and 
the aspiring playwright gave them good measure, 
pressed down and running over. For the pleasure of 
the eye, he lavished processions, coronations, funerals, 
encampments, single combats and serried battles. 
For the pleasure of the ear, he was prolific of songs. 


melancholy or smutty ; and he never stinted such other 
sounds as he could command, — the roll of the drum, 
the staccato call of the trumpet, the clangor of loud 
bells, the rattle of musketry, and the long reverbera- 
tion of thunder. Sheeted ghosts and bloody specters 
were sure of their welcome in advance; and the play- 
wright was prompt to produce them whenever he had 
an excuse. He knew also that these ignorant playgoers 
had a rough sense of fun and liked to laugh heartily; 
and so he sprinkled throughout his pieces a variety of 
ingenious retorts and of obvious repartees, even de- 
scending now and again to get his laugh by the more 
mechanical humor of a practical joke. Furthermore, 
he was aware that, gross as was the taste of the yard- 
lings, they could enjoy pretty sentiment, sometimes pre- 
sented with simple truth, and sometimes surcharged 
with the utmost of lyric exaggeration. 

When we consider how rank was the quality of those 
who stood in the yard of the Globe in those days, how 
deficient their education, how harsh their experience 
of life, how rude their likings, the wonder is not that 
the play prepared for their pleasure was often violent 
and arbitrary and coarse, but rather that any play de- 
vised to delight them was ever logical and elevated, 
shapely and refined. If the best of Shakspere is for 
eternity, the worst of him was frankly for the ground- 
lings who were his contemporaries, and whose inter- 
est he had to arouse and to retain as best he could. It 
is evidence of the intense practicality which ever di- 
rected his conduct that he was in the habit of taking 
over old plays which had already proved their power 
to attract paying audiences. It is evidence of his strict 
adaptation of his plays to his semi-medieval audiences 


that he had a total disregard of chronological, historic, 
or geographic accuracy, giving clocks and cannons to 
the Romans and having the Italians going from Verona 
to Milan to take ship when the tide served, because 
this was the mode of travel most familiar to the Lon- 
doner then. It is evidence of his understanding of his 
public that he is open in having his villains proclaim 
their owiKvickedness, so that the spectator might never 
be in doubt as to their motives. ^ 

In nothing else is the superiority of Shakspere over 
his contemporaries more obvious than in the adroit 
dexterity with which he played upon the prejudices of 
his audience and made profit out of them. He sought 
always to give the spectators of his own time what he 
knew they wanted; and yet, now and again, perhaps 
a dozen times in the score of years of his playmaking, 
uplifted by his genius and by his love of his craft, he 
looked above the spectators and beyond them, and he 
took a trouble they did not require of him. On these 
occasions, all too few, he made a play, pleasing to them 
indeed, but also pleasing to himself, and to his own in- 
tense artistic enjoyment of technical mastery. So it hap- 
pens that we have the compact and logical " Othello," 
as well as the sprawling and incoherent " Cymbeline,'* 
which came a few years afterward. 

The most of his contemporaries, brilliant and highly 
gifted as they were, were incapable of this, and they 
were unable to profit by the example Shakspere had 
set them in those of his plays in which he was himself 
interested enough to do his best and to put forth his 
full strength. It is because he is at his best only on oc- 
casion, and when the spirit of perfection moved him, 
that he founded no school. He was not a master to 



follow unhesitatingly, partly because the mark at which 
be aimed was not always the best target for others, 
since he waa willing often to let the incomparable fe- 
licity of the poet cover up and cloak the careless plan- 
ning of the playwright ; and partly, also, because no 
weaker arm could bend the bow of IJlysses. His chief 
gift was incommunicable; it was the power of endow- 
ing all his creatures with independent life. This power 
a the test of bis work ; and it never leaves him. We dis- 
cover it abundantly even in his roost recklessly arbi- 
trary plots, and even in those of his episodes which are 
based on a childish make-believe. It is not to the credit 
of critics like Brandes, that they gloss over the absurdi- 
tiea that abound in Shakspere's plays, because Shak- 
spere was ready enough to give the spectators of his 
own time the puerile devices they delighted in, — the 
pound of flesh and the trial of the caskets in the " Mer- 
chant of Venice," for example, and the test of the affec- 
tion of Lear's daughters, when that fatherly monarch, 
unless he was already imbecile, ought to have learned 
the characters of his children in the long years of thei"- 
family life. If a critic does not see these absurdities, if 
he is blind to the arbitrary and muddled plot of " Cym- 
beline" and to the shocking callousness of the last act 
of " Much Ado about Nothing," then we may well doubt 
whether he is really able to appreciate the masterly 
simplicity of "Othello" and the orderly richness of 
"Romeo and Juliet" 

The significant fact is that Shakspere was, after all, 
an Elizabethan; and that, like the others, he had to 
accept the conditions of a semi-medieval theater and 


to please a full-blooded public. The others cannot 
climb with him; but not infrequently he sinks with 
them. They were ready enough to be satisfied them- 
selves when they had satisfied the playgoers of their 
own day. They had no hesitation in sacrificing con- 
sistency of character to immediate effect on the mass 
of spectators, — very much as their fellow playwrights 
in Spain were doing at the same time and for the same 
reason. Climbing to impossible heights of honor or 
sinking to impossible depths of dishonor, abounding 
in the most romantic reversals of fortune and in the 
most inexplicable transformations of character, caring 
little for reality or even for plausibility, disregarding 
the delicacy of art no less than the veracity of nature, 
they were fertile in inventing striking episodes; and 
they failed, as a rule, to combine the several parts into 
a coherent whole, sustaining itself throughout and 
gathering power as it proceeded. Capable on occasion 
of the finest shadings of a subtle psychology, they 
were content, for the most part, with a bald daubing 
of character in the primary colors. In other words, 
they often proved themselves true poets, but far less 
frequently did they reveal themselves as real play- 

This is the reason why the flamboyant and iridescent 
eulogy of Swinburne is doing them an ill service to-day, 
while they gained greatly by the apt selection of Lamb, 
who artfully singled out the perfect passages. Only too 
often the parts are far finer than the whole; and Lamb 
presented the best bits so enticingly that he must have 
lured to disappointment many readers who went 
straight from his " Specimens " to the complete works 
of the several dramatic poets. Here, also, we may find 



■U1 rxcusc for Hazlid and for Lowell, who have praised 
these i«oeb( more especiaUy as poets to be read in a li- 
brary, while almost wholly neglecting to consider their 
plays as pUys iotended to be performed by actors in 
a theater and before an audience. To Uazlitt and 
I.owell, these dramatic poets appealed primarily as 
po4rts; and that the poets were also dramatists rarely- 
arrested the atlentiua of either of these acute critics. 

Of a certaioty, there must be many other readers 
who are willing enough to follow the example of Hszlitt 
anil of I^well. and to accept the pure poetr>- which is 
abundant la the works of the Elizabethan dramatists, 
without caring to consider whether or not the plays 
enriched by this poetry are all that they ought to be, 
merely as plays. Some of them may even be inclined 
lo resent any attempt to call attention to the drama- 
turgic defects of plays possessing a host of splendid 
passajres, wherein poetry combines with psychologir' to 
give the keenest pleasure. Others there are who are 
willing to admit the existence of the defects themselves, 
but who deny the justice of a criticism which gages the 
semi-medieval playwrights by tests properly applicable 
only to the modern drama. This protest was voiced 
most persuasively not long ago by a devout admirer of 
the old dramatists, who insisted on the impropriety 
of judging Massinger and Greene by the standards 
proper enough in judging Scribe and Ibsen. 

There is a certain speciousness in this claim; but 
analysis shows that it is not valid. It may be unfair 
to weigh the semi-medieval Greene and Massinger on 
the same scales as Scribe and Ibsen, who are mod- 
ems; but it is not unfair lo measure them by the 
standards we can derive from the comparison of the 



greatest dramatists, both ancient and modern. If we 
find certain principles of the art of playmaking ex- 
emplified in the best dramas of iEschylus and of Soph- 
ocles, of Shakspere and of Moliere, of Calderon and 
of Racine, of Beaumarchais and of Scribe, of Ibsen, of 
Sudermann and of Pinero, it is not unfair to consider 
these principles as the eternal verities of dramaturgy, 
and to point out that Massinger and Greene fail to 
achieve an excellence of which we find frequent ex- 
amples all through the long history of the drama, some 
of them a score of centuries before Scribe and Ibsen 
were born. 

At its best, the dramatist's art reveals itself as akin 
to the architect's ; and a really good play ought to have 
a solid framework and a bold simplicity of planning, 
with a foundation broad enough to sustain the super- 
structure, however massive or however lofty this may 
prove to be. It ought to have unity of theme, freedom 
from all extraneous matter, veracity of motive, contrast 
of character, clearness of exposition, probability of in- 
cident, logical coherence, swift movement, and culmi- 
nating intensity of interest. These qualities can be 
found in " Agamemnon " and " (Edipus the King," as 
well as in " Othello " and in " Tartufle," in the " Alcalde 
of Zalamea" and in " Phedre," in the "Barber of Se- 
ville " and in the " Ladies' Battle," in " Ghosts," in 
" Magda," and in the ** Second Mrs. Tanqueray." But 
these qualities are not to be found in any large degree in 
'* Doctor Faustus " or in the " Roman Actor " ; and they 
are not often to be found in the plays of any of the Eliza- 
bethan dramatists, — far more often in Shakspere than 
in any of the others! 

And if these deficiencies exist, surely it is unwise to 


close our eyes to the fact ; surely it is UDJust to pretend 
that the Elizabelhan drama, as a whole, possesses that 
which it has not ; surely it is safer and honester to ad- 
mit frankly that the art of building plays solidly and 
symmetrically was little cultivated by the Elizabethan 
dramatists, just as it was litlle considered by the 
Klizabethan critics. Surely, again, it is wisest to try to 
see things as they really are and to tell the truth about 
them, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. 
Even in criticism, honesty is the best policy; and the 
Elizabethan poets are indisputably great enough to 
make it worth while for us to assure ourselves wherein 
their true greatness lies. They are none the less great 
as poets when we have seen clearly that — excepting 
Sbakspere — they are great as playwrights only occa- 
sionally, and almost, as it were, by accident. 



The attempt to write tragedy for the closet rather than for the 
stage has resulted either in adopting the supposed conditions of the 
Greek or some other foreign theater, or in breaking away from 
the strict limits defined by the stage and writing lyrical medleys or 
dramatic monologues or imaginary conversations. . . . Object as 
tragedy rightly may at times to the limitations and trivialities of the 
theater, it cannot safely leave its precincts without losing its own 

In the past nearly all tragedies of any effect on the drama's de- 
velopment have not only been planned for the stage but have suc- 
ceeded when acted. This seems likely to be the case in the future. 
For the reader of a play is confronted by difficulties not found in 
other fiction ; and, in general, only a play suited to presentation on 
the stage is likely to secure for a reader the visualization, the im- 
personations, the illusion of actuality, similar to those experienced 
in the theater. — Ashley H. Thobndike, Tragedy, 

The divorce between poetry and the drama, visible 
in English literature in the nineteenth century, is 
acknowledged to be most unfortunate for both parties 
to the matrimonial contract ; and those of us who have 
a warm regard for either of them cannot help hoping 
that they may be persuaded soon to make up their 
quarrel and get married again. The theater is flour- 
ishing more abundantly than ever before; and the 
prose-drama of modern life, dealing soberly and sin- 
cerely with the present problems of existence, has at 
last got its roots into the soil, and is certain soon to 
yield a richer fruitage. Perhaps it is even not too much 


to foresee the possibility of a speedy outfloweriag of 
the drama in the next half-century, in the English lan- 
guage, as well as in the other tongues. In all the earlier 
epochs of dramatic expansion, the masterpieces of the 
art have been truly poetic, in theme and in treatment- 
Have we any reason to suppose that our coming drama 
will also be poetic, both in essentials and in externals ? 
If the law of supply and demand were as potent in the 
arts as it is in commerce, we should be justified in ex- 
pecting that return of the poetic drama, which is eagerly 
awaited by all who cherish the muses. But when we 
station Sister Ann on the watch-tower, and when we 
keep on asking if she sees any one coming, we ought 
to have in our own minds a clear vision of the rescuer 
we are looking for. When we cry aloud for the poetic 
drama, what is it that we stand ready to welcome? 
Of course, we do not mean that bastard hybrid, the so- 
called closet-drama, the play that is not intended to be 
played. A mere poem in dialogue not destined for per- 
formance by actors, in a theater, and before an audi- 
ence, may have interest of its own to the chosen few 
who can persuade themselves that they like that sort 
of thing; but it is not what the rest of us want. The 
poetic drama, in its most splendid periods, has always 
been adjusted to the playhouse of its own time. It 
has always been dramatic, first of all; and its poetry 
has been ancillary to its action. It is in the theater, and 
not only in the library, that we desire now to greet the 
noble muse of tragedy with her singing robes about 
her. Brunetiere insisted that " it cannot be repeated 
too often that a dramatic work does not begin to exist 
as such except before the footlights by virtue of the 
collaboration and complicity of the public, without 


which I assert that it never has been and never can 
be more than mere rhetoric." In other words, we must 
ever distinguish sharply betw^een the poetic play and 
the dramatic poem, between the compositions in dia- 
logue which were intended to be spoken on the stage 
itself, and the compositions in dialogue which were 
intended only to be read in the study. So long as these 
latter make no pretence to be other than they are, 
dramatic poems and not genuine plays, they are legiti- 
mate enough. It is only when their authors and their 
admirers claim for them the praise due to the true 
drama that we must make a swift protest. The true 
poetic drama designed for the actual theater and the 
dramatic poem intended only for the library are dis- 
tinct things; they are essentially unlike; and there is 
danger in any attempt to confuse them. The dramatic 
poem becomes illegitimate only when it claims to be 
judged as a poetic drama; then it stands exposed as a 
mere pretender to a crown belonging to another. 

Yet, like other pretenders, it does not lack advocates. 
One of these has boldly asserted that the so-called 
closet-drama " is a quite legitimate product of literary 
art," since "the playhouse has no monopoly of the 
dramatic poem." This assertion reveals a misunder- 
standing of the essential principles of the drama, as 
all students of its history will instinctively feel. They 
cannot help believing that the playhouse has now, has 
had in the past, and must always have, a monopoly 
of the dramatic form. And they can see clearly enough 
that the closet-drama is generally the offspring of the 
unwillingness or the inability of certain poets to ac- 
quire the craft of the theater, — the special craft which 
makes the dramatist what he is. 


Probably no one of its admirers would dispute a 
definition to the effect that a closet-drama is a play 
not intended to be played. It is a poem in dialogue, 
jeived with no thoU{i;ht of the actual stage, not 
contaminated by any subservience to the playhouse, 
tlie players, or the playgoers. It is wrought solely for 
the reader in the library, without any regard for the 
demands of possible spectators in the auditorium. If 
we accept this definition, we find ourselves able to sub- 
tract from any catalogue of the so-called closet-drama 
two important groups, one containing poetic plays 
and the other dramatic poems. First of all, there is 
the group represented by Tennyson's " Becket." If 
a closet-drama is a dramatic poem not intended to 
be played, then "Becket" is not a closet-drama, for 
Tennyson did intend it to be played. And Tennyson 
was not the author of a single closet-drama, since be 
meant all his plays to be acted, and was even intensely 
anxious that they should be seen in the theater, reveal- 
ing his readiness to make whatsoever modifications, 
suppressions, or additions the managers might suggest 
to him. That these plays met with little success on the 
stage itself can be accounted for either by asserting 
that the laureate wa^ without the dramaturgic faculty, 
or by admitting that he did not take the trouble to 
master the necessary technic of the theater. Brown- 
ing's " Strafford " and " A Blot in the 'Scutcheon " were 
written not only to be acted, but to be acted by one 
particular actor. And as Browning had Macready in 
view, so Shelley had Miss O'N'eill in view when he 
wrote the "Cenci." Coleridge composed "Remorse" 
and Johnson wrote "Irene" to be performed, and they 
were performed- 



If these poetic plays failed in the theater, this is 
partly because their authors did not keep an eye single 
on the stage. They may have had the impatient spec- 
tator in mind, but they had also the leisurely reader; 
and as a result they fell between two stools. They 
laid themselves open to the reproach which Stendhal 
brought against Manzoni's dramatic poems, that the 
"characters seem to be held back by the pleasure of 
finding fine words.'* And they failed to take to heart 
the warning which Goethe expressed to Eckermann in 
1826 : " When a play makes a deep impression on us in 
reading, we think it will do the same on the stage, and 
that we could obtain such a result with little trouble. 
But a piece that is not originally, by the intent and skill 
of the poet, written for the boards, will not succeed. 
Whatever is done to it, it will always remain unmanage- 
able." And then he added out of his own experience: 
" What trouble have I taken with * Gotz,' — and yet 
it will not go right as an acting-play." 

The dramatic poems of another class can be con- 
sidered as closet-dramas only by stretching the defini- 
tion, since they are frankly dramatic poems, not copy- 
ing the outward form of the modem play. This second 
group includes Arnold's "Empedocles on Etna" and 
Swinburne's " Atalanta in Calydon," and all the other 
attempted resuscitations of Greek tragedy. The most 
obvious characteristic of these attempts to resuscitate 
a departed form is to be found in the fact that they 
are deliberate imitations. They are exercises in poetry 
to be ranked with the anatomies of the old painters. 
They are pastiches , as the French call- them; and the 
poet has found his chief interest in recalling the flavor 
of a day that has gone forever. They may reveal the 


range of the metrical artist's accomplishment and his 
ingenuity in grappling with the endless difficulties of 
a revival which can never be really successful, since it 
is frankly impossible for a modem poet to put himself 
back into the skin of a Greek of old and to strip himself 
of all the accretions of thought and feeling that he has 
inherited from the long centuries separating him from 
the Athenians. *'Atalanta in Calydon" may be the 
most Greek of all English imitations of Attic tragedy; 
but it is intensely modem and intensely English, none 
the less. It is not by imitations, however adroit and 
however skilful, that a poet can establish his fame, 
even though an imitation or two may serve to broaden 
our appreciation of his craftsmanship. Lowell was 
considering Swinburne's " Atalanta in Calydon" when 
he declared that "every attempt at reproducing a by- 
gone excellence by external imitation of it, or even by 
applying the rules which analytic criticism has formu- 
lated from the study of it, has resulted in producing 
the artificial, not the artistic." And in the same essay, 
there is another passage which also demands quota- 
tion here: "The higher kinds of literature, the only 
kinds that live on, because they had life at the start, 
are not the fabric of scholarship, of criticism, diligently 
studying and as diligently copying the best models, but 
are much rather born of some genetic principle in the 
character of the people and the age that produce 


The real reason why the closet-drama fails to justify 
itself is that it is too easy. Nothing is more stimulating 
to the artist than the necessity of grappling with dif- 
ficulty. Then and then only is he forced to put forth 


his whole strength. To make his work easier in any way, 
to relax the bonds, to let down the bars, — this is not 
to help the artist ; it is to hinder him from lofty achieve- 
ment. As Huxley once said, it is when a man can do 
as he pleases that his troubles begin. A strong nature 
is ever anxious for a wrestle with an opposing force; 
and he knows very well how the strain braces his 
muscles. This is what is forgotten by the admirers of 
the closet-drama, one of whom once ventured to set 
up this claim for it : — 

"As the closet-dramatist is not bound to consider the 
practical exigencies of the theater, to consult the prejudices 
of the manager or the spectators, fill the pockets of the com- 
pany, or provide a role for a star performer, he has, in many 
ways, a freer hand than the professional playwright. He 
need not sacrifice truth of character and probability of plot 
to the need of highly accentuated situations. He does not have 
to consider whether a speech is too long, too ornate in dic- 
tion, too deeply thoughtful for recitation by an actor. If the 
action lags at certain points, let it lag. In short, as the aim 
of the closet-dramatist is other than the playwright's, so his 
methods may be independent." 

Now, almost every advantage which is here claimed 
for the writer of the closet-drama is in reality a disad- 
vantage. The more willingly a poet avails himself of 
these licenses, the more remote must the result be from 
the true drama, as Shakspere and Moliere conceived it, 
with their careful adjustment of their characters to the 
actors of their own companies and with their keen in- 
terest in the takings at the door. The poet stands re- 
vealed as a shrinking weakling when he wants to cast 
off the shackles that all the supreme dramatists have 
worn lightly. If the aim of the closet-dramatist is other 
than that of the playwright, and if his methods are 



independent, then in all fairness the conclusion ought 
to follow that his achievement is not drama. There is a 
taint of unreality about it, A closet-drama of this sort 
irresistibly recalls a summer cottage with its shingled 
turret and with a parapet carefully machiolated so that 
the residents can the more readily pour molten lea^l on 
the besiegers. " When you build a portcullis to let Iq 
cowa, not to exclude marauders, it is apt to become 
rather ludicrously unreal; if you know that your play 
is to be read and not to be seen, the whole dramatic 
arrangement is on the way to become a mere sham," 
said Sir Leslie Stephen, who then asked: "Why bother 
yourself to make the actors tell a story, when it is 
simpler and easier to tell it yourself?" 

In the dedicatory epistle to his collected poems, 
Swinburne asserted that when he wrote plays, it was 
" with a view to their being acted at the Globe, the Red 
Bull, or the Blackfriars," — the semi-medieval play- 
houses with which the Elizabethan plawrights bad to 
be content, since they knew no other, and to the con- 
ditions of which they carefully conformed their plays. 
And in discussing his own "Marino Fallero," Swin- 
burne declared that this dramatic poem, " hopelessly 
impossible as it is from the point of view of modem 
stagecraft, could hardly have been found too untheatri- 
cal, too utterly given over to thou^t without action, 
by the audience which endured and applauded Chap- 
man's eloquence — the fervid and inexhaustible de- 
clamation which was offered and accepted as a sub- 
stitute for study of character and interest of action, 
when his two finest plays, if plays they can be called, 
found favor with an incredibly intelligent and an in- 
conceivably tolerant audience." 


The first comment to be made upon this character- 
istic vaunting is that we do not know whether Chap- 
man's plays did or did not find favor with Elizabethan 
playgoers ; and the second is that these playgoers may 
have tolerated the eloquence and the declamation for 
the sake of the violently melodramatic plots which held 
the plays together. A third comment would be to deny 
incredible intelligence to the audiences of Chapman's 
time and place. And a fourth would point out that 
eloquence belongs to the oration and not to the drama, 
and that the proper place for declamation is the plat- 
form and not the stage, which expects — and has a 
right to expect — the "interest of action" and the 
" study of character." 

But there is really little need of comment, since 
Swinburne revealed a total inability to understand the 
drama as that has been understood by all the really 
dramatic poets from Sophocles to Ibsen, and by all the 
real dramatic critics from Aristotle to Lessing. It is 
true that Sidney, who had been infected by the sterile 
theoretic criticism of the Italian Renascence, believed 
that the English dramatists ought to model themselves 
on the great Greeks; and yet Swinburne himself has 
never found fault with Shakspere for rejecting this 
advice and for adjusting his plays to the actual theater 
of his own time. It is curious that Swinburne, whose 
adoration for Hugo is almost as perfervid as his ad- 
miration for Shakspere, did not follow their example. 
Shakspere was satisfied with the stage as he found it, 
semi-medieval and unworthy of his genius as it may 
seem to us. Hugo, who had perhaps little more of the 
native dramaturgic gift than Swinburne himself, went 
to school to the professional playwrights whose melo- 


dramas were popular in his youth, and absorbed their 
processes. The poet of "Ilemani" was no closet- 
dramatist ; his aim was that of the professional play- 
wrights, and he took over the skeleton of melodramatic 
ai-tioa which they had devised to please the multitude, 
flinging over it the splendor of his lyric verse, with the 
result of evoking from Swinburne the assertion that he 
was a dramatist of " the race and lineage of Shakspere." 

It is curious also that Swinburne, in his study of 
French literature, had not observed that the foremost 
critics of France have never a good word for the closet- 
drama, — perhaps because the closet -drama has rarely 
tempted the French poets, who have generally con- 
tented themselves with the theater as it happened to 
exist when they took up the art of the dramatist. Ros- 
tand has found his profit in writing for the stage as it 
is; and even Musset, who turned his back on it for 
a season, composed his poetic fantasies so closely in 
accord with its conditions that they needed very little 
modification when they were transferred from the 
library to the theater. 

In Great Britain and in the United Stales, In the 
nineteenth century, while these closet-dramas were 
being published, there was no scarcity of actors capable 
of performing characters loftily conceived ; and these 
actors were many of them eager for new parts worthy 
of their histrionic ability. And the continued popu- 
larity of Shakspere's plays in the theater proves also 
that there was no lack of audiences ready to welcome 
new poetic dramas, if only these novelties resembled 
the plays of Shakspere in being dramatic as well as 


poetic. There is no reason to suppose that the poets 
of the English language would have failed in the play- 
house any more than the poets of the French lan- 
guage failed, if these English poets had followed the 
example of Hugo and of Rostand, and had taken the 
time and the trouble needful to master the methods of 
the contemporary theater. But this is what they were 
not willing to do ; they shrank from the toil ; and there- 
fore they cannot now claim the guerdon due only 
to that successful conquest of difficulty which sus- 
tains the masterpieces of every art. They chose the 
easier path and they wrote poems in dialogue, devoid 
of the essential qualities of the drama, even if rich in 
the essential qualities of poetry. What right have they 
now to the same laurel we bestow on Hugo and on 
Rostand ? It is almost as though they had composed 
music with no understanding of the several instruments 
which make up the modem orchestra, and with no 
intention that the composition should ever be heard. 
It is a significant fact in the history of literature that 
the closet-drama has appeared only when there is a 
divorce between literature and the theater. It is first 
seen in Rome under Nero, when the stage was given 
over to vulgar and violent spectacle; and so Seneca 
seems to have polished his plays solely for recitation 
by an elocutionist. It is visible again in Italy, when 
men of letters, enamored of the noble severity of Greek 
tragedy and of the artistic propriety of Latin comedy, 
despised the ruder miracle-plays and the lively but 
acrobatic comedy-of-masks, which were the only types 
of drama then popular on the stage; and they there- 
fore attempted empty imitations of the classic drama- 
tists with no regard to the conditions of the contempo- 


rary iheatcr. It emerged onre more in England early 
in the nineteenth century, when adaptations of Kotze- 
bue, and later of Scribe and his cloud of collabora- 
tors, were the chief staple of the stage, and when the 
overwhelming vogue of the "Waverley" novels drew 
the attention of authors away from the drama to the 
novel, which was easier to write, easier to bring before 
the public, and more likely to bring in an adequate re- 
ward. Behind every appearance of the closet-drama, we 
can discover a latent contempt for the actual theater, 
and a desire to claim its rewards without the trouble 
of mastering its methods or the risk of facing its perils. 
This is why the closet-drama has never appeared in 
any period of affluent dramatic productivity, for then the 
poets who happen also to be dramatists are glad to 
study out the secrets of theatrical technic and to brave 
the dangers of actual performance. 

Even if there were some slight excuse for the ap- 
pearance of the closet-drama in Rome under Nero and 
in Italy during the Henascence, there was none for 
its revival in England in the nineteenth century, when 
actors and audiences were alike waiting to recognize 
and to reward a new dramatic poet. For its continued 
existence in the twentieth century there is still less ex- 
cuse, since Ibsen has shown us how the austerest themes 
may be treated in the modem theater. The poet of 
our time has no right now to despise the stage, where 
Shakspere and Ibsen are accepted ; he has no right lazily 
to refuse to comply with its conditions, if he wishes to 
win its rewards. The drama is not for the library, but 
for the theater; and it is not for the joy of the little 
group of dilettants, but for the stimulation of the public 
as a whole. It was the wise Boileau who once said that 


"even when a work is approved by a small number of 
connoisseurs, if it is not filled with a certain pleasure 
for the general taste of men, it will never pass for good, 
and at the end the connoisseurs themselves will admit 
that they were at fault in giving it their approbation." 


The closet-drama is like. poverty in that it is always 
with us ; and it is far removed from the poetic drama 
which we hoped to see revived in our language. But 
what is the exact nature of this poetic drama that we 
long for ? It is not, or at least it ought not to be, a sort 
of dramatized historical novel, full of high deeds and 
pretty words, a costume-play in blank verse, as empty 
of true poetic inspiration as the " Virginius" of Sheri- 
dan Knowles or the "Richelieu" of Bulwer Lytton, 
In the illuminating address on "Literature and the 
Modern Drama," which Mr. Henry Arthur Jones 
delivered at Yale in the fall of 1906, he asserted that 
playgoers on both sides of the Atlantic have a notion 
that a costume-play, with its scenes laid anywhere 
except in the last half-century and with its personages 
talking "a patchwork diction, compounded of every 
literary style from Chaucer to a Whitechapel coster- 
monger," seems to have a literary distinction and a 
profound significance "which rank it immeasurably 
above the mere prose play of modem every-day life," 
and which give to the ravished spectator an elevation of 
mind and " a vague but gratifying sense of superiority." 

Probably this notion is to be found in the heads of 
not a few playgoers, pleased with the belief that they 
are revealing themselves possessed of fine literary dis- 
crimination when they pay their money to behold a 


costume-play in blank verse. But the clothes of long 
ago and the lines of ten syllables have no power in 
themselves to confer literary merit, even when they 
are united. These are but the trappings of the muse, 
often laid aside when she warms to her singing. They 
may deck a play wholly artificial, unreal, false to life, 
— and therefore wholly devoid of literary merit. It 
ought to be evident to us all that an unpretending 
farce which has happened to catch and to fix a few 
of the foibles of the moment is really more worthy of 
serious critical consideration than a tawdry melodrama, 
bombasted with swelling sonorities and peopled by 
heroes strutting in the toga or stiff in chain-armor. It 
ought to be evident also that this farce, in so far as 
it has its roots in reality, is a better augury for the 
future of the drama, and may have even more genuine 
literary quality, than the pretentious costume-play in 
blank verse, illumined by no gleam of true poetry. 

Poetry, essential poetry, is not a matter of versifying 
only. Many a play in verse is prosy, whether written 
in French alexandrines or in English pentameters. 
Many a play in humble prose is shot through and 
through with the radiance of poesy. Perhaps the most 
truly poetic dramas of the end of the nineteenth cen- 
tury are the little pieces of M. Maeterlinck; and neither 
the "Intruder" nor *' Pelleas and Melisande" is in 
verse. Certainly the most poetic plays of the middle 
of the nineteenth century are the delicious fantasies 
of Alfred de Musset; and "On ne badine pas avec 
Tamour," and its fellows, did not need the aid of verse. 
And it would be easy to give many another example. 
Aldrich's " Judith," for instance, which is in verse, 
is not only less dramatic, it is actually less poetic than 


his "Mercedes," which is in prose. More significant 
still is the fact that the most charmingly lyric of all 
the comedies of Shakspere, "As You Like It," filled 
with the fragrance of young' love and of perennial 
springtime, is very largely in prose. So is the sleep- 
walking scene of Lady Macbeth, tense with tragic 
emotion and lifted to the loftier altitudes of poetry. 

It may not be too bold to suggest that Shakspere 
knew what he was about. He had the right instinctive 
feeling ; and , he varied his instrument as the spirit 
moved him. Nothing will better repay study than the 
skill with which Shakspere, in " Julius Csesar," for 
example, commingled blank verse and rhythmic prose 
and the plainer speech of every day, giving the verse 
to his nobler characters, Brutus and Cassius and 
Antony, letting the cadence of balanced sentences fall 
from the lips of those less important, and bestowing • 
the simplest words on the mob of under citizens. A 
modem dramatic poet could scarcely have refrained 
from sustaining the whole of "As You Like It" and 
"Macbeth" and "Julius Csesar" at the higher level 
of blank verse. And even Shakspere's contemporaries 
had not his instinctive art. Massinger, for one, often 
used verse in plays of contemporary life, such as the 
"New Way to pay Old Debts," which demanded 
rather the realistic directness of prose. This has led 
astray many of the later imitators of the Elizabeth- 
ans, — Sheridan Knowles, for example, whose " Hunch- 
back" is in the blankest of verse. 

The dramatic poets of the other modem languages 
have sometimes fallen into the same error. Augier's 
"Paul Forestier" deals with a highly emotional situa- 
tion in modem life; but it loses more than it gains from 


its verse. Ibsen eschewed verse after he had writteD 
" Love's Comedy," which is the least sigDiScant of all 
his modem plays ; and he declared that prose was not 
only more appropriate to plays of contemporary char- 
acter, but "incomparably more difficult." We ought 
to be able to see that "When We Dead Awaken" and 
the "Intruder" and "On ne badine pas" are truly 
poelic, although in prose, whereas "Richelieu" and 
" Virginius" are emphatically prose, although in verse. 
It is not the cowl that makes the monk, said the medi- 
eval proverb. Perhaps it may seem Hke bad manners 
to look Pegasus in the mouth; but it is good sense to 
see that he is entered for the right race before we be- 
stride him. 

.\Uhough the dramatic poets of other modem lan- 
guages have also made the mistake of employing verse 
when prose would have served their purpose better, 
it is the dramatic poets of the English language who 
have most often been guilty of the blunder. And this 
is due, no doubt, to the weight of the example set by 
the Elizabethan dramatists. What these earlier poets 
did spontaneously, the later bards have striven to do 
by main strength. Most of the Elizabethans used 
blank verse indiscriminately, whether their theme was 
poetic or not. Even Shnkspere employed it in handling 
subjects essentially unpoetie, as in "All's Well" and 
" Measure for Measure," It is a question whether the 
overwhelming influence of the Elizabethans has not 
hampered the true development of a later English 
poetic drama. They set a standard; and they have 
been copied in their defects no less than in their vir- 
tues; indeed, tlieir defects Slave proved far easier of 
imitation than their finer qualities. 


Our modem theaters impose on the modem play- 
wright very different conditions from those which the 
semi-medieval Elizabethan playhouse imposed on the 
Elizabethan playwright. This may be a gain or it may 
be a loss ; beyond all question, it is a fact. Just as the 
drama of the Athenians would have been a bad model 
for the Elizabethans, so the drama of the Elizabethans 
is a bad model for the poets of to-day. This is not only 
because the earlier English plays were conditioned by 
the earlier English theater, but also because certain 
medieval traditions survived with the result that much 
that was not truly dramatic was tolerated in a play and 
even expected. The absence of scenery tempted the 
poet to passages of pure description, just as the pre- 
sence of actors who had been choir-boys tempted him 
to lyrics introduced often for their own sake. Nowa- 
days the drama has shed these extraneous elements 
and is suflScient unto itself. The actors of our own 
time have rarely had a training as singers also ; and the 
scenery of our time renders it needless for a poet to 
indulge in description. 

The drama has cast out all that is undramatic; and 
it has now no room for anything but the action and the 
characters. It is compacter than ever before; and it 
rejects not only description but also narrative. Its 
duty is to show what was done and the consequences 
of the deed ; and it has neither time nor space for nar- 
rative for its own sake, however beautiful in itself. 
Here is one weakness of the modem poets who write 
plays, Mr. Stephen Phillips, for one. His verse is often 
epic or lyric or idyllic rather than dramatic. He is 


felicitous in polished narrative and in suggestive de- 
scription, but he more rarely achieves the stark bold- 
ness of vital drama, when the speaker has no time and 
no temper for fanciful comparisons or adroit allitera- 
tions, and when his phrase ought to flash out suddenly 
like a sword from its scabbard. His lines have often 
a beauty of their own, but it is a conscious and elabo- 
rate beauty out of place when the action tightens and 
a human soul must be bared by a word. They lack 
that unforced simplicity, that colloquial ease, that inev- 
itable naturalness which grip us in the great moments 
of Shakspere. 

How unadorned are the words of Viola and how full 
of meaning and of melody also, when she has told the 
Duke of her alleged sister's unspoken love. He asks : — • 

"But died Ihy sister of her love, my boj? " 
And she answers : — 

"I am all the daughters of mj father's house. 
And all the brothers, too; and jet I know not. 
Sir, shall 1 to this lady 7" 

Consider also how free from fine language and 
phrase-making, how completely devoid of simile and 
metaphor, and yet how vitally poetic, is the parting 
of Romeo from Juliet: — 

Juliet I have forgot why I did call thee back, 
Romeo. Let me stand here till thou remember it. 
Jvliet. 1 shall forget, to have thee still stand here, 

Remembering how I love thy compBoy. 
Romeo. And I 'II still stay, to have thee still forget, 

FoT^etting any other home but this. 

The true poetic drama is not the closet-drama ; it is 
not the mere costume-play in blank verse ; it is not the 



empty imitation of the Elizabethan formula. It is a 
play composed in accordance with the conditions of 
the modern theater, whether in verse or in prose mat- 
ters little, but poetic in theme and poetic in treatment, 
as well as dramatic in theme and dramatic in treat- 
ment. It is a play at once truly poetic and truly dra- 
matic, — only this and nothing more. It is not a play 
with a commonplace subject decked with fine phrases 
and stuccoed with hand-made verses. It must be 
lifted up into poetry by the haunting beauty of its 
story, since it cannot be made truly poetic by any 
merely lyrical decoration. The story need not be 
strange or exotic or unusual ; it may even be a tale of 
to-day and of every day, one of the old, old tales that 
are forever renewing their youth. Dramatic art has 
a right to follow the practice of pictorial art, when, in 
Whistler's sincere words, it was "seeking and finding 
the beautiful in all conditions and all times, as did her 
high priest Rembrandt when he saw the picturesque 
grandeur in the Jew's quarter of Amsterdam, and 
lamented not that its inhabitants were not Greeks." 

The poetic drama, must be truly dramatic and truly 
poetic ; but it must not plead its poetry as an excuse for 
mere foolishness, and it must not give us characters 
who are not governed by common sense at the crucial 
moments of the action. The principle is laid down by 
Professor Lounsbury in his incisive analysis of a ** Blot 
in the 'Scutcheon": "The plot may be what you 
please. The story upon which it is based may be so 
far from probable that it verges on the impossible. But 
this, while objectionable, can be pardoned. What is 
without excuse is to find the characters acting without 
adequate motive ; or, if the motive be adequate, to find 

them acting in th« most incomprehensible way for ra- 
tional beings." The keen critic then pointed out that 
Shakspere is almost always unerring in his observance 
ot this dramatic propriety, "The plot of his play may 
rest upon a story which is simply incredible, as is not- 
ably the case in the 'Merchant of Venice.' All that 
Shakspere asks is that the story shall be one which 
his hearers are willing to accept as likely to happen, 
whether in itself likely or not. This granted, there is no 
further demand upon our trust in him as opposed to 
our judgment. We say of every situation : This is the 
natural way for the characters as here portrayed to 
think and feel and act, The motives are sufficient; the 
conduct that follows is what we have a right to expect." 
When this test is applied to Browning's play we are 
told that " the characters throughout scrupulously avoid 
doing what they might reasonably be expected to do; 
while the things they might naturally be expected to 
avoifl are the very things which they do not seem to 
conceive the idea of refrtuoing from doing. The play 
consequently violates every motive which is supposed to 
influence human conduct ; it outrages every probability 
which is supposed to characterize human action." In 
other words. Browning, in a " Blot in the 'Scutcheon," 
has a perfectly possible story, which he has chosen to 
people with characters arbitrarily unnatural in their 
conduct, whereas Shakspere in the "Merchant of 
Venice" has an almost impossible story, carried on by 
characters unfailingly natural. In Browning's play, 
" we are in a world of unreal beings, powerfully por- 
trayed ; for the situations are exciting, and the pathos of 
the piece is harrowing. But the action lies out of the 
realm of the reality it purports to represent, and there- 


fore out of the realm of the highest art," — that realm 
of the highest art which easily includes Shakspere's 
play in spite of the incredibility of certain of its episodes. 
Abundance of poetry, of power, of pathos will not 
excuse paucity of common sense in the conduct of the 
personages of the play. No bravura fervor of phrase 
will palliate sheer foolishness of deed. This defect may 
be more or less hidden from us when we read the play 
in the library, but it stands out undisguised and naked 
when we see the story bodied forth on the stage. There 
is then no excuse for any effort to apologize for it or to 
gloss it over. It is fatal, for the massed spectators in the 
theater have sharp eyes and plain tongues; and they 
resent every effort to make them admire a play which 
they find revolting to their every-day knowledge of 
human nature. 


Nothing is more unfortunate for the future of the 
poetic drama than the frequent attempts of superior 
persons to dragoon the ordinary playgoer into the 
theater to behold a play which he is certain not to 
enjoy. He resents being berated for not admiring that 
which has annoyed him by its artificiality or bored him 
by its clumsiness. The attitude taken by many merely 
literary critics after a performance of "Pippa Passes" 
or of the "Sunken Bell" is distinctly harmful to the 
cause they have at heart. If these performances wearied 
the average spectator, as they indisputably did, and if 
he is scolded because he has failed to appreciate these 
alleged poetic dramas, he is very likely to stay away the 
next time these merely literary critics seek to browbeat 
him into the theater to see another poetic drama. Per- 


baps it is just as #eU for us all to remember that the 
playgoer doI only knows what he likes, but also that he 
knows very definitely what he does not like. When he 
goes to the playhouse, he wants to see a play peopled 
with recognizable human beings and affording him the 
kind of pleasure he expects in the theater. He has no 
objection to poetry, if poetry is added to the play. He 
rejects poetry unhesitatingly, when he finds it proffered 
as a substitute for a play. He is in the present very 
much what he was in the past; the playgoers of Shak- 
spere's time did not have to be coerced into paying to 
see "As You Like It" and "Hamlet"; they went 
gladly, for they had been told that theywould get their 
money's worth. The playgoers of Mr. Barrie's time 
have flocked to see "Peter Pan," a truly poetic play, 
compounded of fantasy and reality. 

The example of Mr. Barrie is suggestive : he has suc- 
ceeded on' the stage because he has mastered its mys- 
teries. We cannot expect a rebirth of the poetic drama 
aatil our poets turn pJaywrights or our playwrights 
develop into poets. The poets must go to school in the 
theater and learn the craft of the playmaker in his o^vn 
workshop, as Mr. Barrie has done, and as Victor Hugo 
did when he set himself to spy out the secret of the suc- 
cess attained by the melodramatists of the unliteraiy 
theaters. For a poet to compose a poem in dialogue, 
and then expect that some adroit stage-manager can 
lick it into shape and make an actable play out of it, — 
this is very much as if he should ask the monthly nurse 
to put a backbone into the baby after it is born. A 
poetic play must be dramatic in its conception, or it 
will never be a play at all. The fundamental principles 
of dramaturgy are not really difficult to acquire; and if 



a poet has it in him to be a playwright, he ought to be 
able to get hold of the essentials of the new art without 
a prolonged apprenticeship. But he needs to feel, first 
of all, that it is an art, a very special art, closely con- 
nected with the actual theater. If he begins by assum- 
ing an attitude of haughty disdain, he is not likely to 
find profit in his venture. 

While some poets will choose to master the craft of 
the playwright, some playwrights will prove themselves 
possessed of the faculty divine. We are accustomed to 
consider the great dramatists primarily as poets, and 
we do not often look closely enough into their careers 
to observe that some of them began as playmakers, 
pure and simple. Shakspere, for one, and Moliere, for 
another, were at first merely professional playwrights, 
composing their earliest pieces to please contemporary 
playgoers and revealing in these earliest pieces scarcely 
a foretaste of the abundant poetry which enriches their 
later and greater plays. No examination of the first- 
lings of their muse would have warranted any predic- 
tion of their extraordinary development in their riper 
years. And perhaps some of the professional play- 
wrights of the twentieth century will rise to loftier 
heights as they grow in power and in ambition. They 
may bourgeon into verse when the fascination of a truly 
poetic theme some day seizes them. They, at least, will 
not need to be reipinded that whenever and wherever 
the poetic drama has existed, it has been primarily 
dramatic in its intent and only secondarily poetic. 



Anil here tlie Reader maf plenae take notice that the Design of 
these Rules ia to conceal the Ficticm of the Stage, to make the 
Flaf appear Natural, and to give it an air of Reality and Conver- 

Tlic largest compass ot the first Unily is Twenty-Four Hmira: 
But a lesser proportion ia more regular. To be esact, the Time 
ot the History, or Fable, should uot exceed that of the Represenla- 
tioK : Or in other words, the whole Business of the Play should not 
be much longer than the Time it lakes up in Flaying. 

The Second Vaily i? that of Plare. To observe it. the Sixite must 
not wander from one Town or Country to another. It must continue 
in the same House, Street, or at farthest in the same City, where 
it was first laid. Tlie reason of this Rule depends upon the First. 
Now. the Compass of Time being strait, that of Spaix must bear a 
correspondent Proportion. Long journeys in Plays are impracticable. 
The dislnnoes of Place must be suited to Ldsure and Possibility; 
olherwine the supptnition will appear unnatural and absurd. 

The Third VnUg is that of Ai'tion. It ixmsists in contriving the 
chief Business of the Play single, and making the concerns of one 
Pa'son distinguishable great above the rest. — Jebeut Collier, 
Bemarks upon the Relapse. 

The truth is that the spectators are always in their senses, and 
know, from the first act to the last, that the stage is only a stage and 
that the players are only players. They came to hear a certain num- 
ber of lines recited with just gesture and elegant moduhition. The 
lines relate to some action, and an action must be in some place; 
but the different actions that complete a story may be in places 
Teiy remote from each other; and where is the absurdity of allow- 
ing that space to represent first Athens and then Sicily, which 
was always known to be neither Sicily nor Athens but a modem 

. . . Time is, of all modes of existence, the most obsequious to 
the imagination ; a lapse of years is as ea^ly conceived aa a passage 



of hours. In contemplation we easily contract the time of real ac- 
tions, and therefore willingly permit it to be contracted when we only 
see their imitation. — Samuel Johnson, Preface to Shakspere. 

In the ever-delightful pages in which Dickens de- 
scribes the unexpected characters with whom Nicholas 
Nickleby is brought in contact during the days of his 
association with the strolling players under -the man- 
agement of Mr. Crummies, we are made acquainted 
with a worthy country gentleman, Mr. Curdle, who 
poses as a patron of the drama. When Mr. Curdle 
is informed that Nicholas Nickleby is the author of 
the new play in which the Infant Phenomenon is to 
appear, he expresses the hope that the young dramatist 
has "preserved the unities." He insists that incident, 
dialogue, and characters are "'all unavailing without 
a strict observance of the unities.' 


*' ' Might I ask you,' said the hesitating Nicholas, * what 
the unities are ? ' 

*'Mr. Curdle coughed and considered. * The unities, sir,' 
he said, *are a completeness — a kind of universal dove- 
tailedness with regard to time and place — a sort of general 
oneness, if I may be allowed to use so strong an expression. 
I take those to be the dramatic unities, so far as I have been 
enabled to bestow attention upon them, and I have read 
much upon the subject, and thought much.' " 

Very likely the creator of Mr. Curdle and of Mr. 
Crummies would have found it difficult to give any 
better definition of the unities than this which he put 
in the mouth of one of his comic characters. But then 
Dickens did not pretend to have read much upon the 
subject and thought much. Probably many a play- 
goer who has heard about the dramatic unities and 


about the duty of preserving them, has no more exact 
idea as to what they really are than Mr. Curdle. In- 
deed, we may find the term used by some dramatic 
critics of to-day with a haziness of meaning recalling 
the vagueness of Mr. Curdle 's definition. Yet the term 
has a precise content, known to those who have really 
read much upon the subject and thought much; and 
the theory of the dramatic unities has a history which 
has been made clear comparatively recently. 

It is not uncommon to read references to the " uni- 
ties of Aristotle"; and yet Aristotle knew them not 
and did not discuss them at all. It has happened of 
late that they have been termed the "unities of Scali- 
ger"; and yet they were not completely declared by 
Scaliger. They are to be found formulated with the 
utmost sharpness in Boileau's "Art of Poetry"; but 
they were familiar to Sidney when he penned his " De- 
fense of Poesy." Jonson tried to preserve them ; but 
Shakspere refused to let them shackle him. Lope de 
Vega admitted their validity and yet evaded their rule, 
as he regretfully confessed, Corneille had never heard 
of them when he wrote his fieriest play; and they vrere 
at the bottom of the famous "Quarrel of the Cid," 
in which Richelieu involved the French Academy he 
had recently established. Lessing analyzed them un- 
favorably in the eighteenth century; and in the nine- 
teenth, Victor Hugo derided them in his flamboyant 
preface to "Cromwell," wherein he raised the red flag 
of the romanticist revolt. And yet the dramatic uni- 
ties arc preserved once more in the "Francillon" of 
the younger Dumas, son of Hugo's early rival, and 
in the "Ghosts" of Ibsen, the austere Norwegian 
realist, — although in all probability neither of these 



latter-day dramatists had paid any attention to the the- 
ory which insisted that the unities must be preserved. 

What are then these unities which some dramatic 
poets believe in, but reject, and which others preserve* 
without taking thought? What are they, and where 
do they come from? Why should anybody want to 
preserve them ? How could anybody achieve this pre- 
servation without ejBfort ? To find the answer to these 
queries, we must be willing to go on a loitering excur- 
sion through literature after literature, straying from 
French into Italian and then wandering back into Greek 
before strolling forward again into English, — an excur- 
sion which will force us to fellowship with Boileau and 
Aristotle, with Shakspere and Ben Jonson, as well as 
with the ingenious critics of the Italian Renascence and 
with the ardent playwrights of French romanticism. 

The clearest and most succinct declaration of the 
dramatic unities was made by Boileau when he laid 
down the law that a tragedy must show "one action 
in one day and in one place." It must deal with only 
a single story ; and this obligation is the Unity of Action. 
It must never change the scene, massing its episodes 
in a single locality; and this is the Unity of Place. 
And it must compress its successive situations into the 
space of twenty-four hours, into a single day; and this 
is the Unity of Time. When a tragedy presents a 
simple and straightforward story without change of 
scenery and without any longer lapse of time than a 
single revolution of the sun, then and only then are 
the three unities preserved, as Boileau understood 
them. And in thus laying down the law which must 
bind the tragic poet, the French critic believed that 
he was only echoing the regulations promulgated by 


Aristotle, the great Greek, whose authority then over- 
awed critics and poets alike. Yet Buileau would have 
held with the Abbe d 'Aubignac, his predecessor as a 
critic, and with Comeille, his contemporary as a poet, 
that the strict observation of the three unities is de- 
manded not only by authority but by reason also. 
Two and three hundred years ago, all men of letters 
seem to have agreed thai even if the ancients had not 
prescribed these limitations, they would have been 
evolved by the moderns independently, as a result of the 
strenuous search for the perfect form of the ideal play. 

It was lucky for the theory of the three unities that 
its advocates sought to prop it up by this appeal to rea- 
son, since it was not actually supported by the author- 
ity of Aristotle. Although they were long called the 
Aristotelian Unities, only one of the three is formally 
set forth by the Greek philosopher, even if a second 
has been implied from one of his statements. Boileau 
and his contemporaries, like their Italian predecessors, 
made the natural mi.stake of thinking of Aristotle as 
a theorist, like unto themselves, as engaged in work- 
ing out an ideal system for the drama. But this was 
just what Aristotle was not. Whether he was consider- 
ing the constitution of Athens or the construction of 
the Attic drama, the Greek inquirer was unfailingly 
practical. He dealt with the thing as he saw it before 
bis eyes, taking it as he found it, relishing the concrete 
and eschewing the abstract. 

Aristotle's attitude is the same as Lessing's in the 
eighteenth century and Sarcey's in the nineteenth. 
He did not retire within himself and weave theories 
out of thin air. He was no closet-critic of a closet-drama. 
He sat himself down in the theater itself to see plays 



performed by actors before an audience, and the prin- 
ciples he lays down are the logical deduction from his 
observation of the effect produced on him by the actual 
performance of the particular kind of tragic drama he 
is analyzing. He is no spinner of theories in a vacuum; 
and he kept himself in close contact with the realities 
of the theater. He came early in the development of 
the drama; and the plays of the Greeks were all that 
he knew. With his marvelous acuteness of insight, he 
mastered the mechanism of Attic tragedy ; he discovered 
the principles which had governed its makers and ac- 
cording to which they had worked , — more or less 
unconsciously, as is the wont of artists. If Aristotle had 
known any other type of drama than that of the Greeks, 
he would have had standards of comparison; and his 
deductions would have been different. As it was, he 
handled the matter before him with incomparable 
certainty. Even though he was acquainted with only 
one form of tragedy, he pierced to the center and said 
many things which are applicable to every form of 
tragedy, ancient and modem. It is true that he also 
said many things which are applicable only to the 
tragic drama of the Athenians. 


Of the three unities, only one is to be found formally 
stated in Aristotle's treatise. This is the Unity of Ac- 
tion ; and it is as valid in the modem drama as in the 
ancient. The Greek critic declared that a tragedy ought 
to have a single subject, whole and complete in itself, 
with a beginning, a middle, and an end. This is true 
of every work of art, tragic or epic, pictorial or plastic. 
Every work of art ought to leave a direct and simple 


impression, which it cannot make without a concen- 
tration upon its theme and without a rigorous exclu- 
n of all non-essentials. It is true that there are great 
works of literary art, in which we perceive two stories 
intertwined and demanding equal attention, — the 
•'Merchant of Venice." for example, and "Vanity 
Fair" and "Anna Karenina." .But they are great in 
spite of this bifurcation of interest; and they number 
very few among the masterpieces of literature. In 
most of these masterpieces, we find only a single theme, 
as in the "(Edipus"of Sophocles and in the "Tartuffe" 
of Moliere; in the "Scarlet Letter" of Hawthorne and 
in the "Smoke" of Turgenieff. 

Shakapere is often careless in the construction of the 
plots of his romantic-comedies and of hi» dramatic- 
romances, "Much Ado about Nothing," for example, 
and the "Winter's Tale"; but he is very careful to 
give essential unity to the loftier tragedies in which 
he put forth his full strength, in "Othello," and 
"Hamlet," and "Macbeth." In these supreme efforts 
of his tragic power, he achieves not only the needful 
unity of plot, but also the subtler unity of tone, of color, 
of sentiment. With his customary acuteness, Coleridge 
dwelt on the "unity of feeling" which Shakspere ob- 

"Read 'Romeo and Juliet,'" he declared; — "all is youth 
and spring; youth with all its follies, its virtues, its precipi- 
tancies; — spring with its odors, its flowers, and ita trau- 
siency; it is one and the same feeling that commences, goes 
through, and ends the play. The old men, the Capulets and 
the Montagues, are not common old men; they have an eager- 
ness, a heartiness, a vehemence, the effect of spring; with 
Romeo, his change of passion, his sudden marriage, and his 
rash death, are ajl the effects of youth; — whilst in Juliet, 


love has all that is tender and voluptuous in the rose, with 
whatever is sweet in the freshness of spring; but it ends with 
a long deep sigh like the last breeze of the Italian evening/* 

In asserting the necessity of the Unity of Action, 
the only unity which is to be found plainly set forth 
in his fragmentary treatise, Aristotle was anticipating 
the demand of Mr. Curdle that the dramatist should 
give to his work " a completeness, — a kind of universal 
dovetailedness, a sort of general oneness." Apparently, 
the Unity of Action was the only one of the three uni- 
ties that Mr. Curdle knew anything about, even though 
he had read much upon the subject and thought much. 
And it is the only one which has imposed itself upon 
all the greater dramatists, whether Greek or English, 
French oit Scandinavian. It is the only one of the 
three which is now accepted as imperative beyond all 
question; and it is the only one the acceptance of 
which by the dramatic poet is everywhere to his abiding 

Thus we see that Boileau was justified in demanding 
that tragic poets should deal only with a single theme. 
Was he right also in insisting that they should limit 
the action to a single day and to a single place ? And 
what was his warrant for believing that they should 
impose these limitations on their freedom ? His justi- 
fication was twofold, the appeal to reason and the 
appeal to authority, — to what had been read into 
Aristotle's treatise although it had not been explicitly 
expressed therein. Yet there is possibly some slight 
foundation for the belief that Aristotle had declared 
the Unity of Time, as well as the Unity of Action. The 
Greek drama was acted outdoors in the level orchestra 
of the theater ; and the single story of the play was un- 


rolled before the audience without any such intermis- 
sions aaour modem interacts. The Greek playwright 
was therefore under strong pressure to relate his suc- 
cessive episodes as closely as he could, to a%'oid distract- 
ing the attention of the spectators from his plot to the 
mere lapse of time. Therefore he tended to avoid all 
mention of time and to present his situations as follow- 
ing swiftly one after the other. 

"Tragedy endeavors." so Aristotle tells us, "so far 
as possible, to confine itself to a single revolution of the 
sun.or but slightly to exceed this limit." But the great 
critic is not here laying down the law; be is merely de^ 
daring the habitual practice of the playwrights whose 
works he was studying, to spy out their secrets. He is 
not assei ting that this must be done ; he is only inform- 
ing us that it was done as far as possible. He could not 
help knowing that it was not always possible, and that 
when it was not possible, the Greek dramatists did not 
hesitate to extend their plot over as long a period as 
they might think necessary. For example, the "Aga- 
memnon" of vEschylus begins with the Watchman 
on the tower looking for the flaming signal which was 
to announce the fall of Troy, flashing from beacon to 
beacon, from hilltop to hilltop across leagues of land and 
sea. At last the Watchman catches sight of the blaze, 
and he descends to tell Clytemnestra that her husband 
is that day set free to depart on his long voyage home- 
ward. It would be many more days before the hero 
could be expected to arrive; and yet in the middle of 
the play, Agamemnon appears and enters the palace 
to meet his death. Here is a long lapse of time, fore- 
shortened by the dramatist, because it was not pos- 
sible otherwise to deal advantageously with the story. 


It may be admitted that the '^Agamemnon" is the 
only extant Greek play which covers so protracted a 
period. But that iEschylus should have ventured to 
do this is evidence that the Greeks themselves had ac- 
cepted no hard-and-fast rule compelling them to limit 
the duration of the story to twenty-four hours. Now, 
if the Unity of Time was not always observed by the 
Greek dramatic poets and if it was not formally pre- 
scribed by Aristotle, how did it come into being ? And 
thanks to Professor Spingam's illuminating investiga- 
tion into Italian criticism during the Renascence, this 
question is now easy to* answer. Giraldi Cinthio, — 
from one of whose tales Shakspere was to derive the 
suggestion for his " Othello,'* — wrote a "Discourse on 
Comedy and Tragedy," in which he limited the time 
of a play to a single day, thus converting Aristotle's 
statement of a historical fact into a dramatic law, and 
changing Aristotle's "single revolution of the sim" 
into a " single day." A little later, another Italian critic, 
Robortello, cut down the time to twelve hours, "for 
as tragedy can contain only one single and continuous 
action, and as people are accustomed to sleep in the 
night, it follows that the tragic action cannot be con- 
tinued beyond one artificial day." And a little later, 
still yet another Italian, Trissino, declared that the 
Unity of Time is imperative on all playwrights, though 
it is disobeyed " even to-day by ignorant poets." 

This final sneer is very significant. In the Italian 
Renascence, all literature — and criticism more espe- 
cially — was frankly aristocratic. It made its appeal 
not to the many, but to the few; it was not for the 
plain people, but only for the cultivated, who were 
alone capable of understanding the artist. This at- 


titude 19 Dot dmd in America lo-da_r: it was uniTer- 
mJ in Italy four centuries ago. The educated classes 
hwl come into the splendid heritage of the classics; 
and they felt themselves more thMi ever elevated above 
tbe common henl. What the common herd could 
enjoy was by thai very fact discredited. The men of 
letters kept aloof from the vulgar tlirong; thej- were 
artists working for the appreciation of their fellow 
dilettants. To lake this attitude is ever dangerous even 
for the lyric poet; for the dramatist it is fatal. The 
drama is of necessity the rnoat democratic of the arts, 
making its appeal to the people as a whole, educated 
and uneducated alike. But the Italian critics despised 
the popular acted drama of their own day; and they 
deemed it wholly unworthy of consideration. How- 
ever much they as individuals might enjoy the rollicking 
CO medy-of -masks or the more primitive miracle-plays, 
they as a class despised this unpretending folk-drama. 
So Sidney, who had been nurtureil on Italian criticism, 
despised the popular drama which was the connecting 
link between the rude medieval mystery and the noble 
Elizabethan tragedy. 

Here, indeed, is the difference between Aristotle 
and his Italian commentators. He was a regular play- 
goer; and the principles he sets forth are only the re- 
sults of his study of a great dramatic literature, as this 
was vividly revealed in the actual theater. They had 
never seen a good play well acted. What they had be- 
held on the stagewas not good, according to their stand- 
ards; and what they esteemed good they could not 
behold on any stage. This explains their academic 
theorizing, their pedantry, their insistence upon con- 
formity with arbitrary limitations. While Aristotle, 


with the hard-headed common sense of the Greek, had 
his eye fixed on the concrete as he saw it, they, with 
the super-ingenious subtlety of the Italian, bent their 
gaze on the abstract. They longed for a noble dra- 
matic literature and they tried to make it out of hand 
by servile imitation of Latin tragedy and Latin comedy. 
They did not guess that the folk-plays enjoyed by the 
vulgar throng needed only to be improved, to supply 
a foundation for a living drama at once poetic and 
popular. Their aristocratic contempt for the common 
herd prevented the Italians from developing out of 
their own folk-drama a tjrpe of play dignified and 
national, such as the English, the Spanish, and the 
French were to develop. The sacred-representations, 
medieval as they might be, had in them the germ of 
lofty tragedy; and the comedy-of-masks might have 
been purged of its grossness and lifted into literature 
(and this is exactly what Moliere was to do more than 
a century later). Because they scorned the acted 
drama of their own day, meager as it might be and 
barren of art, the clever Italians deprived themselves 
of a living dramatic literature. In its stead, they had 
only a code of laws, arbitrarily declaring what a dra- 
matic literature ought to be. 

The Unity of Action was proclaimed by Aristotle; 
the Unity of Time was elaborated into a rule from one 
of Aristotle's casual statements of fact ; and the Unity 
of Place was deduced by the Italian critics from the 
Unity of Time, as Professor Spingam has made plain. 
Almost suggested by Scaliger, it was actually formu- 
lated first by Castelvetro, who differed from his con- 
temporaries in that he took account of the desires 
of a possible audience. It is true that Castelvetro, in 


spile of his talk about the actual stage, knew quite as 
little about it as any of his contemporaries. Yet he 
declared it to be the duty of the dramatist to please the 
spectators, of whatever sort, ami to consult always 
their capabilities. He had no hij^h opiaion of the intel- 
ligence of these spectators, believing that they could 
not imagine a lapse of time or a change of scene. At 
least, he suggested that they would be annoyed if the 
aolion was not confined to one day and contained in 
oue p 

The fallacy underlying Castelvetro's theory is the 
result of his assumption that the spectators, while sit- 
ting in their seats, suppose themselves to be witnessing 
reality. He fails wholly to appreciate the willingness 
of an audience to "make believe " almost to any extent. 
And his own logic breaks down when be convinces him- 
self that the spectators cannot imagine two or three 
places in turn, just as well as one at a lime, and that 
they are not ready to lot the author pack into the two 
hours' traffic of the stage the events, not of twenty-four 
hours only, but of twelve months or more. He does not 
grasp the conventions which must underlie every art 
and which alone make an art possible. Every artist 
must be allowed to depart frankly from the merely 
actual, if he is to please us by his representation of life 
as he apprehends it. 

Probably the Unity of Place would not have taken 
its position by the side of the Unity of Time and the 
Unity of Action, if it had not seemed to be supported 
by the practice of the Greek dramatic poets. In the 
surviving specimens of Attic drama, there are a few^ 
instances where the action is apparently transported 
from one spot to auotber ; but in the immense majority 


of the Athenian plays which have come down to us, we 
note that the story begins and ends in the same place. 
And the reason for this is not far to seek. The Greek 
drama had been evolved out of the lyrics of the chorus ; 
and to the end of the Athenian period, the chorus con- 
tinued to be a most important element of a tragic per- 
formance. WTien the chorus had once circled into the 
orchestra, it generally remained there until the end of 
the tragedy. Now, this presence of the chorus before 
the eyes of the spectators prevented the dramatist from 
shifting the location of his action even if he had desired 
to do so. He could ask his audience to imagine a change 
of place only when the orchestra was empty, which 
was very rarely the case. Furthermore, we must keep 
in mind the fact that the theater at Athens was in all 
probability devoid of scenery, and that therefore there 
was no way of visibly indicating a change of place. 


This, then, is the theory of the three unities, long 
credited to the great Greek critic, but now seen to have 
been worked out by the supersubtle Italian critics of 
the Renascence. Indeed, there is little exaggeration 
in saying that they evolved it from their inner con- 
sciousness. From Cinthio and Scaliger, Castelvetro 
and Minturno, the theory passed to Sidney and Ben 
Jonson in England, to Juan de la Cueva and Lope de 
Vega in Spain, to the Abbe d'Aubignac and Boileau 
in France. For two centuries and more, this law of 
the three unities, with the other rules elaborated at the 
same time by the same Italians, were accepted through- 
out Europe by almost every critic of the drama. There 
was an established standard of "regularity" and "cor- 


rectneas," which imposed on all playwrights a strict 
obedience to the critical code. This body of laws was 
su[^H>sed to be supported by the inexpugnable author- 
ity of Aristotle; but it was also believed to have its 
basis ia reason. It dominated the drama of France 
until early in the nineteenth century; and even if Cor- 
neille now and again chafed under it, Voltaire was in- 
sistent in supporting it. Dr. Johnson suggested that 
if "Othello" had opened in Cyprus and the preceding 
incidents been occasionally stated, "there had been 
little wanting to a drama of the most exact and scru- 
pulous regularity." Yet this theory was not obeyed 
by the popular playwrights of Spain, not even by Lope, 
who was frank in declaring that he knew better than 
he practised; and it was rejected by the Elizabethan 
dramatists in England, excepting only Ben Jonson. 

And thb raises two interesting questions. If the 
code of correctness, including the rule calling for the 
preservation of the three unities, was accepteif by all 
those who discussed the art of the drama, why did the 
practical playwrights of England and of Spain refuse 
to be bouml by its behests? And why did the practical 
playwrights of France submit to be cribbed, cabined, 
and confined by its restrictions? The most obvious 
explanation is to be found in the fact that the great 
expansion of the drama arrived in France at least half 
a century later than it had in Spain and in England. 
A really literary drama, rich in poetry and vigorous in 
character, had been developed out of the popular 
medieval folk-play far earlier in Spain and in England 
than it had in France; and the Spanish and the Eng- 
lish playwrights, having succeeded in pleasing the play- 
going public with a large, bold, and free drama, saw 



no good reason why they should surrender their liber- 
ties and risk their popularity by conforming to a stand- 
ard of correctness which might gratify the cultivated 
few, .but which would deprive the uneducated many 
of the variety the main body of spectators had been 
accustomed to expect in the theater. Indeed, this is 
the excuse which Lope de Vega makes for himself in 
his significant address on the " New Art of Making 

While this may have been the main motive of the 
chief of the Spanish playwrights, there is no diflSculty 
in surmising that the chief of the English dramatic 
poets had a better reason for rejecting the law of the 
three unities and for refusing to submit himself to its 
chains. Shakspere was preeminently a practical man, 
with a keen eye to the main chance. He could find no 
profit in foregoing any part of the freedom which had 
enabled him to catch the favor of the playgoers who 
welcomed his " native wood-notes wild ." And he could 
not help fearing an obvious and immediate loss if he 
should choose to let himself be governed by the Unity 
of Time. No small part of Shakspere's incomparable 
power as a dramatist is due to his understanding of the 
forces which modify character, transforming it under 
pressure, or disintegrating it under stress of recurring 
temptation. Now, character is not modified in the 
twinkling of an eye, nor can it disintegrate in twenty- 
four hours. If Shakspere had chosen to preserve the 
Unity of Time, he would have been compelled to sup- 
press all the earlier episodes of "Julius Csesar," for 
example, which are so significant and which revive in 
our memories when we are witnesses of the later quar- 
rel of Brutus and Cassius; and he would have had 



to present Macbeth only in the final stage of his moral 
deliquesc-ence, without showing us the manly soldier 
before the virus of meao ambition had poisoned liii 
nobler nature. 

This concentration of action into the culmiaating 
moments of the story wbs not a disadvantage to the 
Greek dramatic poets, since they were expected to 
present a trilogy, three separate plays acted in swift 
succession on the same day to the same audience, 
whereby they were enabled to show the tragic hero at 
three different moments of his career. But the obliga- 
tion to presene the Unity of Time was a sad restriction 
upon the French dramatic poets, who had not the 
privilege of the trilogy and who were compelled always 
to present characters fixed and unchanging. By his 
compulsory obedience to this rule, Comeillewa^ robbed 
of not a little of his possible range and sweep, even if 
Racine, with his subtlety of psychologic analysis, may ■ 
even have gained by an enforced compacting of his 
story and by a limitation to its culminating moments. 
Shakspere did not care to discuss the principles of 
his craft, as Ben Jonson was wont to do. He digresses 
in "Hamlet" into a disquisition on the art of acting; 
but he nowhere expresses his personal opinions on the 
art of playwriting. He was no more a theatrical re- 
former than he was a dramatic theorist. He was con- 
tent to take the stage as he found it and to utilize all 
its conventions and all its contemporary traditions. 
If he declined to listen to the precepts of the critics, 
and if he refused to preserve the unities, he had his 
own reasons ; and we can see that they were sufficient 
But it is unimaginable that he did not know what he 
was doing or that he was ignorant of these theories. 


It is very improbable that he had not in his youth 
read Sidney's "Defense," in which the rule of the three 
unities is stated for the first time in English. It is most 
unlikely that in his maturity, and when he and Ben 
Jonson were engaging in their wit-combats at the Mer- 
maid, he had not had occasion to hear the whole code 
of the drama proclaimed again and again by his robust 
and scholarly friend. 

We have seen that an Italian critic dismissed the 
playwrights who failed to preserve the unities as " igno- 
rant poets." Probably the reproach of ignorance of the 
rules was one that Shakspere would bear with perfect 
equanimity. Yet, although he himself drew no atten- 
tion to it, and, for all we know, may not even have 
bidden Jonson to remark it, he was moved once, in the 
later years of his labors in London, to preserve the 
unities, as if to show that it was not ignorance, but a 
wise choice, which had led him to reject them in all 
his other plays, tragic and comic. The "Tempest" is 
in all likelihood the last play which Shakspere wrote 
without collaboration, and in the "Tempest," he chose 
to preserve the unities, — as they were then under- 
stood in England and as they had been preserved 
by Jonson in several comedies. The Unity of Place 
required that the action should be confined to a single 
place, but place was interpreted liberally. A single 
place meant one palace or one town, not necessarily 
a specific room in this palace or a specific house in this 
town. It meant a single locality, but not a single spot. 
The action of "Every Man in his Humor" passes in 
London, which is a single locality, but it is not re- 
stricted to a single room or even to a single house in 
that city. 


The "Tempest" sets before us. as Professor Louns- 
bury has pointed out, a single story, direct and swift 
and uncomplicated; and therefore it preserves the 
Unity of Action. It is compact within a single revo- 
lution of the sun, as the author takes care to tell us 
more than once, — and therefore it presen'es the Unity 
of Time; indeed, its story is compressed within three 
hours, not exceeding the hmit of the performance itself. 
It has for its locahty an island with the water imme- 
diately surrounding that island; and therefore it pre- 
serves the Unity of Place (as that was then liberally 
interpreted). As we study the "Tempest," it is as 
though we could hear its author saying that he could 
play the game as well as any one else when he chose, 
and if he had not played it before, this was simply 
because he did not deem it worth the candle. 

That Shakspere wrote the "Tempest" is pretty 
plain evidence that he knew the "rules of the 
drama" quite as well as Lope de Vega did. That 
both the English and the Spanish dramatic poets re- 
fused to abide by them is equally evident. And this 
brings up again the question why the doctrine of the 
unities should have been accepted willingly by the 
professional playwrights of France after it had been 
rejected by the professional playwrights of England 
and of Spain. One answer to this query has already 
been suggested — that the outflowering of dramatic 
poetry was later in France than in England or in Spain, 
and therefore after the doctrine of the three unities 
had hardened into a dogma. Anolher answer might 
be that the French are the inheritors of the Latin 


tradition, that they like to do things decently and in 
order, and that they relish restraint more than the 
English or the Spaniards. We might go further and 
say that the French are naturally the most artistic of 
the three races and that, to an artist, there is always a 
keen joy in working under bonds and in grappling 
with self-imposed obligations. But there is a third 
explanation of the apparent anomaly which comes 
nearest to being adequate. 

The drama of every modem literature is the out- 
growth of the drama of the Middle Ages, — of the 
passion-play and of the popular farce. , But the de- 
velopment from this unliterary folk-drama into true 
tragedy and true comedy is different in the different 
countries, and it is only by tracing back this evolution 
in France that we can lay hold of the chief reason why 
the Unity of Place was accepted in France, even though 
it had been rejected in England, where the theater had 
followed a slightly different line of development. 

The full-grown passion-play was the result of put- 
ting together the several episodes of the gospel-story, 
which had been shown in action in the church on 
diflFerent days, more especially Christmas and Easter, 
as an accompaniment of the service. Each of these 
episodes had been set forth in the most appropriate 
part of the edifice, — the Holy Child in the manger, 
on the chancel-steps, the Raising of Lazarus, near the 
cr3rpt, the Crucifixion, near the altar. These scattered 
places where the separate parts of the sacred story 
were represented in action and in dialogue were known 
as " stations," and when the overgrown religious drama 
was finally thrust out of the church and confined to 
laymen, the useful device of the stations was taken 


over by the new performers. In France, the passioa- I 
play was presented on a long and shallow platform, 
with the successive stations ranged side by side at the. 1 
back : and they were known as " mansions." In fact, all T 
the important places in the play were set on the stage 
at once, each coming into use in its turn and as often 
as need be, while the most of tlie acting was done in 
the nentral ground further fonvard on the platform. 

After the performance of the mysteries in Paris had 
been confided to the Brotherhood of the Pa.ssion, this 
body established itself in the Hotel de Bourgogne, the 
stage of which was prepared to accommodate as many 
mansions as tlie story might demand. In time, drama- 
tizations of the lives of the saints followed the dramati- 
zation of the life of Christ; and, after a while, these w 
succeeded by dramatizations of the lives of heroes, 
at first of history and afterwards of romance. Thus 
the sacred drama gave way to the profane, which ha4 
been slowly developed out of it. Yet the lay play- 
wrights, though they might borrow their plots from 
modem legends, retained the medieval device of the 
mansions, finding it very convenient, since it enabled 
them to show on the stage all the many places where 
their hero met with his manifold adventures. How- 
ever incongruous this simultaneous set may seem to 
us, accustomed as we are nowadays to a succession 
of sets, it was familiar to French audiences and accept- 
able to them well into the seventeenth century. But 
in time, its disadvantages became more and more 
obvious. The spectators who had not found it hard 
to follow the well-known Bible story and to identify 
the Temple at Jerusalem, the House of the High- 
Priest, and the other mansions it demanded, began to 



be a little confused when Hardy put before them un- 
known stories acted amid mansions only summarily 
indicated by the carpenter and the decorator. Hardy 
cluttered the stage with all sorts of strange places, 
bringing together in one play, a ship, a palace, a bed- 
room and a cave on a mountain ; and the audience had 
to strain its ingenuity to recognize all these localities. 

It was for a stage thus fitted up that Corneille com- 
posed the "Cid," the action of which takes place in a 
neutral ground, backed by the residences of the chief 
characters. When he wrote this play, he had never, 
even heard of the doctrine of the unities, which had 
been ignored by the Spanish dramatist from whom 
he borrowed his plot. He soon found himself severely 
criticised for his ignorance of the rules of the drama; 
and, although his play was overwhelmingly success- 
ful, he confessed his error. In all his following plays, 
he preserved the Unity of Place, discarding the medley 
of mansions that he had employed freely in his earlier 
pieces; and we cannot doubt that this simplification 
of the scenery on the stage was most welcome to the 
spectators, who were no longer forced to guess at the 
significance of accumulated bits of scenery. And so 
powerful was the prestige of Corneille, that his con- 
temporaries and his successors followed his example 
and showed one action in one place in one day. 

Corneille himself often found it rather irksome to 
conform to the rules; and Moliere, in his adaptation 
of the laxly constructed Spanish piece, " Don Juan," 
was forced for once to disregard them. But they im- 
posed no painful bonds on Racine, who was satis- 
fied to deal only with the tense culmination of a tragic 
complication. What Corneille and Racine had done. 


Voltaire was glad to do, although he and his cootem- 
poraries might be reduced to the absurdity of making 
conspirators hold their meetings in the palace of tie 
moaarch they were leagued against. For two centuries, 
the seriolis drama of the French was chained in the 
triple-barred cage of the unities ; and it was not released 
until Victor Hugo brought out "Hernani," long after 
freedom had been won in other countries. 

After "Hernani" had blown his trumpet and the 
hollow walls of classicism had fallen with a crash, the 
doctrine of the three unities was finally disestablished; 
and Mr, Curdle is easily excusable for not knowing 
exactly what it was. Perhaps its evil effect even upon 
the drama of France has been overestimated ; at least 
we may doubt whether Moliere and Racine, Marivaux 
and Beaumarchais really lost anything by accepting 
it. On the other hand, we have reason to rejoice that 
it was rejected by the dramatic poeta of England and 
of Spain. In our own time, no playwright ever gives 
a thought to the preservation of the unities. And yet 
even to-day, when a dramatist is dealing with the re- 
sult of a long series of events, and when he seeks to 
set this forth as simply and as strongly as he can, we 
are likely to find him compacting his single action 
into a single day and setting it in a single place. This 
is what the younger Dumas did in " Francillon," and 
what Ibsen did in " Ghosts"; probably cither of tliem 
would have been not a little surprised if he had been 
told that in these plays he had preserved the unities. 

This unconscious compliance of two practical play- 
wrights of the nineteenth century with the theoretical 
precepts of the dogmatic critics of the sixteenth and 
seventeenth centuries, suggests that there is, after all. 


something to be urged in behalf of the three unities. 
They represent an eflFort toward simplicity of plot 
and toward logic of structure, two (][ualities greatly 
needed by the drama in its semi-medieval condition. 
That the eflFort was unfortunately misdirected is not 
to be denied ; yet it had a worthy motive. 

\ , 

:,w . 






It may be well to suggest a series of questions which the 
student can put to himself when he begins to study any play, 
ancient or modern. 

A, Has this play a single plot? — or is the story double 
or even treble ? If there is more than one story, which is 
the main-plot ? Is the under-plot worked into the structure 
of the play, or is it independent, being merely juxtaposed ? 
Does the existence of more than one plot divide the interest 
of the play, or scatter it, or does the under-plot sustain the 
miain story by adroit contrast ? Does the play contain any 
non-dramatic elements, epic or 1311c, oratorical or descrip- 
tive ? If so, to what extent do these interfere with the dra- 
matic interest? 

B, Has the play an essential struggle sustaining it from 
beginning to end? If so, what is this struggle? By what 
characters is this struggle maintained on the one side and on 
the other ? Are both opponents justified in their own minds ? 
Or is one of them absolutely right and the other absolutely 
wrong ? With which character do you find yourself sympa- 
thizing ? Why ? Does the outcome of the struggle satisfy you ? 
If not, why not ? Has the author played fair with his charac- 
ters ? Or has he obviously intervened to make them do what 
they would not do ? And, if so, has this interfered with your 
interest in the play? 

C, What happened before the play began ? At what point 
in the story does the author choose to begin and at what 
point to end ? Why did he choose between these points of 


be^iiing and ending ? Was he well advised in both choices ? 
How has he conveyed to you what you need to know about 
the past to enable you to follow the play from the begin- 
ning? What is his method oF exposition P Has be massed 
his necessary explanations in the earlier scenes ? or has be 
reserved some interesting disclosures for later acts? If so, 
was he right in so doing? Has he failed to tell you, early 
in the play, anything that yoii would have liked to know 
then to appi*ciate better what was being done on the stage? 
Does he at any time violate the principle of Economy of 
Attention ? 

D. What is the main theme ? Is this held tounswervingly? 
Or does the story digress into bj-paths ? Does the play con- 
tain any scene which could be omitted ? If so, why was it 
inserted ? Does the author fait to present any scene which 
he ought to have shown in action ? If so, can you discover 
any sound reason for this oniission ? Has he led you to es- 
pecl any scene which he has not given you ? 

E. Docs the interest of the play rise steadily frotn the 
beginning to the end? If not, where does it droop? And 
what is the cause of this flagging in each case? Draw the 
diagram of interest and use it to aid you in your analysis. 

F. What dramatic conventions does the author avail hiin- 
selfof? Whichof these are permanent and necessary? Which 
of them are temporary and peculiar to the theater of his day ? 
Has he a chorus ? If so, what is the function of this chorus ? 
Does he employ the soliloquy? If so, is it for constructive 
purposes, to tell you facts? Orisitonly to reveal the thoughts 
of a character alone on the atage? Does he use asides ad- 
dressed directly to the audience ? Does he employ the de- 
vice of eavesdropping ? And in these things is he merely 
accepting the traditions of his immediate predecessors ? In 
other words, how far is his method of construction influenced 
by the conditions of the actual theater of his own time P 

G. Do you discover or suspect any evidence that the au- 
thor had any special actors in mind in composing his play? 
Is there anything said or done by any character which is the 
result of the fitting of that part to the original performer ? 


And if so, does this help you to understand better the au- 
thor's intent? 

H, What evidence do you discover that the author had 
in mind the opinions or even the prejudices of his contempo- 
raries, of the audiences of his own time ? Is there any overt 
appeal to the playgoers of that period and of that time ? Is 
there any frank claptrap ? What light does the contents of 
this play cast on the manners, the customs, and the beliefs 
of the people for whom it was originally written ? Is it local 
and temporary in its appeal, or permanent and universal ? 

/. Is the play really a picture of life? Are the characters 
veracious ? Could they have existed ? If so, would they have 
acted as they do in the play ? Is the conduct of the plot co- 
herent and logical ? Is the end inevitable or is it arbitrary ? 
Is the story warped by the obvious effort of the author ? Does 
casual accident affect the plot ? If so, could this have been 
avoided ? Ought it to have been avoided ? Is there any ar- 
bitrary character ? If so, does this interfere with your interest ? 
And if it does not, why? Are there carefully contrived co- 
incidences? If so, are they so brought about as to seem 
natural in the play ? And how is this accomplished ? 

«/. What was the author's aim in writing the play ? Did he 
set out merely to present the several facets of a single char- 
acter to whom all the others are subordinate ? Did he intend 
to present primarily a picture of life, as it is or as it might 
be? Did he have an ulterior object, a thesis to sustain? 
Does the play prove anything ? If so, was this the author's 
deliberate intent ? Or was this merely incidental to his pic- 
ture of life ? Has the play a moral value ? What effect had it 
on you ? Did it uplift or depress you ? 

K, Does this play conform to the Unity of Action? To 
the Unity of Place ? To the Unity of Time ? If it does con- 
form to any one of these, why ? And was the conformation 
advisable ? Did the play gain or lose thereby ? Does it con- 
form to the theory of poetic justice ? If not, ought it to have 
done so ? Does the author unduly sympathize with any one 
of the characters ? Does he dislike any one of them ? If so, 
does this help or hurt the play as a whole ? 


Ir. Can you classify the play easily ? — that is to say, is it 
a tragedy or a melodrama, a comedy or a farce, a chronicle- 
play or a dramatic-romance, a romantic-comedy or a comedy- 
of-manners ? Or is it commingled of two or more types ? If 
so, what are these types ? And does this departure from the 
strict type interfere with your pleasure ? Does the author 
indulge in mots (T esprit? Does he reveal character by mots 
de caracthre f Is he happy in finding mots de situation f 



In the preceding pages, stress has been laid upon the fact 
that the art of the drama has essential principles which are the 
same throughout the ages. The conditions of performance 
may change and the desires of different audiences may differ 
wholly, but the dramatist has ever to conform to the same 
code. This being the case, there is profit in considering the 
drama as a whole, and in comparing the plays produced 
in different periods and by different people. The following 
list of plays has been drawn up to facilitate this comparison, 
and to help the student to attain a perspective of the develop- 
ment of the drama. The historical evolution of the art of 
the playwright, with incidental criticism of the successive 
masters of dramaturgy, has been outlined in my own volume 
of lectures on the Development of the Drama (Scribners, 

For an understanding of the theatrical performances in 
Greece, see Barnett's Greek Drama (Dent, 1900) ; Haicrh's 
Attic Theater (Macmillan, 3d ed., 1908); and also Haicrh's 
Tragic Drama of the Greeks (Macmillan, 1899). There are 
many translations of the surviving plays of the Greek dra- 
matists, some of them published in cheap editions. The Sup- 
pliants of .^schylus, although not one of his best plays, is 
interesting as illustrating the growth of an actual drama out 
of the earlier chorus. His two most important plays are the 
Prometheus Bound and the Agamemnon, The CEdipus the 



King of Sophocles was held by Aristotle to be the most mas- 
terly of all the Attic tragedies ; and second to it is the Antig- 
one, Of Euripides, the Medea and the Alcestis are the most 
characteristic. Perhaps the Frogs is the easiest understood 
of all the lyrical burlesques of Aristophanes, since its theme 
is literary rather than political. The best translation of the 
masterpiece of Greek criticism is in Butcher's Aristotle's 
Theory of Poetry and Fine Art (Macmillan, 2d ed., 1898). 

Unfortunately no complete play of Menander's has sur- 
vived. In M. Collins's volume on Plautus and Terence in 
the Ancient Classics for English Readers, there are abstracts 
of all their plays with abundant quotation. Perhaps the 
Captives, although not characteristic, is the play of Plautus 
most likely to amuse modern readers. The Aulularia might 
also be read, as well as the Andria of Terence. 

Horace's "Art of Poetry" is to be found in any transla- 
tion of his poems ; but it is accessible also with the poems 
of Vida and Boileau in Cook's Art of Poetry (Ginn & Co., 

The most accessible translation of Seneca's plays is that 
by Professor Miller (University of Chicago Press, 1908), 
with a preface by Professor Manly. See also Cunliffe's In- 
fluence of Seneca on the English Drama (1893). There is no 
single book describing the organization of the Roman thea- 
ter corresponding to Haigh's Attic Theater. 

But Chambers's Medieval Stage (Clarendon Press, 1903) 
traces admirably the successive steps by which the modern 
drama was evolved out of the ritual of the church. And the 
actual text of the earliest dramatic attempts are collected 
in two volumes of Manly's Specimens of Pre-Shaksperean 
Drama (Ginn, 1900). A briefer selection, with a useful in- 
troduction, is Pollard's English Miracle Plays (Clarendon 
Press, 5th ed., 1909). 

The most important plays of the Elizabethan dramatists 
can be found in Gollancz's Temple Dramatists, Baker's 
Belles Lettres Series, and the Mermaid Series; and the one- 
volume selection by Professor Neilson, Chief Elizabethan 
Dramatists, excluding Shakspere (Houghton Mifflin Com- 


pany, 1910), will be sufRcienf for most readers. Neilson's one- 
virlniiie edilion of Shitkspere (IIoughtoD Mifflin Company, 
IDOH) can also be highly recommended, especially because 
of iu indication thut the customary division into acts and 
Rconea is unwarranted. Perhaps the most useful edition of 
Shakspere in separate volumes is Clark and Porter's First 
Folio Edition (Crowell). Sufficient abstracts from the Rea- 
tomlion Playwrights can be found in Crawford's English 
Comic Dramatiiits (Appleton, 1884) in connection with which 
attention must be called to Lamb's essay on "Artificial 
Comedy" and to Maeauiay's answer, the "Comic Dra- 
matists of the Restoration." The later dramatic authors of 
the English language are accessible in the Mermaid Series 
and in the Belles Lettrcs ."Series. 

The plays of the contemporary dramatists are now gen- 
erally published, although not always in satisfactory edi- 
tions. Unfortunately Mr. Barrie has so far refused to put 
bis comedies into print. Perhaps the most significant of 
these modern plays are Pinero'a Second Mrs. Tanqueratj 
and the BenefU (f Ike DoiAt, Jones's lAars and Mrs. Dane's 
Defence, Shaw's Candida and You iVeiwr cart Tell, Bron- 
son Howard's Kate, Clyde Fitch's CUmbcTS, and Augustus 
Thomas's Arizona. 

The masterpiece of French farce is Masier Pierre PateHn, 
translated byHolbrook (Houghton Mifflin Company, 1903). 
There are several complete translations of Molicre, but Pro- 
fessor Pace's two volumes containing tbe more important 
plays (Putnam's, 1908) surpass all their predecessors. Of 
Corneiiie and of Racine, there are no complete translations 
in English, but separate pieces can be found in Great Plays : 
French and German (Appteton, 1901). Translators have also 
failed to provide adequate English versions of ths comedies 
of Beaumarchais, of Scribe, of Augier, and of the two Dumas. 
The lyrical melodramas of Victor Hugo are included in the 
more or less complete translations of his works. And there 
are several versions of Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac. 

Lope de Vega has templed few translators, but one of his 
comedies can be found in the Drama, edited by Alfred Bates 


(1903). FitzGerald made free renderings of Six Dramas of 
Calderon ; and there are translations of other of Calderon's 
plays by Denis Florence MacCarthy. Life is a Dream and 
the Alcalde ofZalamea are characteristic examples of Calder- 
on's method. Of the contemporary Spanish dramatists, only 
Echegaray is represented in English; his Gran Galeotto is 
most noteworthy. There is an account of the Italian comedy- 
of-masks in the introduction to Symonds's translation of 
the memoirs of Carlo Gozzi. Several of D'Annunzio's plays 
are available in English, especially the Gioconda and Jorio's 

There are translations of the works of Goethe and Schiller, 
which include their chief plays. Perhaps the most note- 
worthy are Goethe's Gotz von Berlichingen and Schiller's 
Robbers and Don Carlos, Of the contemporary German play- 
wrights, Sudermann and Hauptmann are the most important. 
There are English translations of Sudermann's Magda and 
the Joy of Living and of Hauptmann's Weavers and Han- 

Archer's edition of Ibsen now includes nearly all the plays, 
both in prose and in verse; the characteristics of Ibsen's 
method are revealed in the DolVs Houses in Hedda Gabler, 
and in Ghosts. Bjornson's Beyond Human Power and Glove 
also exist in English translations. 

Spingarn's Literary Criticism in the Renaissance (Colum- 
bia University Press, 2d ed., 1908) discusses the dramatic 
theories which resulted in the establishment of the classicist 
formula in France. The English translation of d'Aubignac, 
entitled the Whole Art of the Stage^ is scarce ; but it is often 
to be found in the larger libraries. Lessing's Hamburg 
Dramaturgy is included in the Bohn Series; it prepared the 
way for Schlegel's lectures on Dramatic Literature (also in the 
Bohn Series), which is still useful, although unduly polemic 
in its hostility to the French. There is an inadequate Eng- 
lish version of Freytag's Technic of the Drama (McClurg, 
1895) . Later books dealing with dramatic theory are Jerome's 
Playwriting (reprinted from the Stage ^ 1888) ; Hennequin's 
Art of Playwriting (Houghton Mifflin Company, 1890) f 


Calmour'g Praetical PlaywriUng {Arrowamith, 1891) ; Price's 
Technique aj thr Drama (Brenlano, ISfliJ): Archer's How 
b) write a Good Play (Sampson Low. 189^) ; Woodbridge's 
Drama; iU Law and Technique (Allyn & Bacon, 1898); 
Price's Anahj»i» tif Play Conotrucliaa and Dramalic Pria- 
cipU (published by the author, 1908) ; CafSn's Appreciation 
tsf the Drama (Baker & Taylor, 1908): and Clayton Ham- 
illon's Theon/ o} the Theater {Holt, 1910). 

For an insight into the principles of tlie art of acting, which 
is so closely allied to the art of playwriting, the student may 
lie referred to Lewes's Actors and Ike Art of Acting (Smith, 
Elder. 1873, now accessible also in the Taucbnitz collection) ; 
auil Coiley Cibber'a Apology and Joseph Jefferson's Auto- 
biography. See also Archer's Musks or Faces (Longmaua, 

For a longer discussion of the non-literary qualities of 
the drama, the reader may be referred to my papers on the 
"Relation of the Drama to Literature" in the Historical 
Noitl and atlier Essays (Scribners, 1901), and to that on 
the "Importance of the Folk-Theater" in the third edition 
of AspeeUi of Fiction (Scribners. 1908). The earlier periods 
of drainnlic evolution are considered from the nntliropo- 
logical point of view in Ilirn's Origins of Art (Macniillan, 
1901). and in Grosses Beginn.ings of Art (Appleton, 1897). 

A more elaborate analysis of the conventions of the drama 
will be found in a paper included in my Historical Novel and 
other Essays. 

Professor Schelling has traced the career of the Englinh 
Ckronide-Play (Macmillan, 1902): and in his History of the 
Elizabethan Drama, he has outlined the development of other 
dramatic species. To Professor NeiJson's Types of English 
Literature, Professor Thorndike has contributed an illumi- 
nating study of Tragedy; and for the same series Professor 
Fletcher ia preparing an account of the Pastoral. 

In the opening paper of A. E. Walkky's Drama and Life 
(Melhuen. 1907), there is a consideration of the effect pro- 
duced on the drama by Ihe change from the platform -stage to 
the picture-frame stage. To the Stratford Town Edition of 


Shakspere, Mr. Robert Bridges contributed a paper discuss- 
ing the influence of the Elizabethan audience on Shakspere; 
and in Mr. A. C. Bradley's Oxford Lectures on Poetry (Mac- 
millan, 1909), there is a lecture on "Shakspere's Theater and 

To be mentioned, also, is Karl Mantzius's History of The- 
atrical Art, five volumes of which have appeared in English 
(Lippincott, 1904-1909). 


Abing^ton, Mrs., 167. 

Academy of Music, the, 77. 

Accident, ruled out by Aristotle and 
Coleridge, 101; by the best art, 
197, 200; in Rwn^ and JtUiet, 201- 

Acropolis, the, 49, 70. 

Action, placed by Jefferson above 
literary merit, 21 ; is the expression 
of will, 95; declared by Aristotle 
essential to tragedy, 101; the 
drama a conflict (Butcher), 101- 
102 ; action and character, 161, 162; 
of primary importance, 174; must 
be seen unfolding, 180 ; should sup- 
port the dialogue, 181 ; in Scribe's 
plays, 182; in Dumas, the elder, 
182; in F^ora, 184; of characters, 
199, 200, 203; in Shakspere's plays, 
202, 215 ; in the Elizabethan drama, 
238; in the poetic drama, 250; in 
the modern drama, 265 ; in the Blot 
in the '<S^cutoiteon, 268; in the pas- 
sion-play, 291 ; unity of (See Unity 
of Action). (See also Human will. 
Plot, Scenes d/aire,) 

Actors, limitations of, 41-43; eager- 
ness of, for worthy new parts, 258. 

Adventure, the tale of, 224. 

Adventures of Tom Sawyer^ the, 
quotation from, 12. 

iBschylus, 17, 19, 58, 79, 165, 186, 232; 
Prometfieua Bounds 58, 146; Ago/- 
memnony 106, 165, 186, 247, 280-281 ; 
Persians^ the, 136, 237, 247, 281. 

Aldrich, T. B., Judith, 262; Mer- 
cedes, 263. 

Alleyne, Edward, 32. 

America, 125, 282. 

American Indian, the, 133. 

Amsterdam, 267. 

Analogues, 125-126, 129, 141. 

" Apron," the, 61, 62, 63. 

Ara Goeli, the, 63. 

Arbitrary, the, 121, 194, 195, 197, 201- 
210, 219, 221, 240, 242, 244. 

Archer, William, quoted, 128. 

Arena, sports of the Roman, 89-90; 
stage first cousin to, 103; gladiar 
tors in, 103. 

Aristoplianes,232; lyrical-burlesque 
of, 117. 

Aristotelian Unities, the, 276. 

Aristotle, 20, 21, 88, 101, 102, 141, 162, 
176, 208, 257, 274, 275, 276, 277, 279, 
280, 281, 282, 283, 286, 286. 

Arizona, 13. 

Armada, the, 96. 

Arnold, Matthew, 233; Empedoole$ 
on Etna, 253. 

Artificial light, 45, 46, 48, 69, 60, 61, 
63, 64, 66, 139, 238. 

Aside, the, 144-145, 148. 

Athenian (See Greek). 

Athens, 48, 49, 79, 88, 89, 186, 196, 276, 

Atmosphere, in story-writing and 
in drama, 163. 

Attic drama, the (See Greek drama). 

Audiences, Elizabethan, 70, 73, 75, 
91, 113, 123, 140, 165, 189, 196, 204, 219, 
237-245, 256, 257, 270, 287; Frenoh- 
and English-speaking compared, 
72, 231; of Terence, 72; of the 
Italian Renascence, 72 ; of Lope de 
Vega, 72-73 ; of Greece, 73, 74, 193, 
195, 209, 239; modem, 74, 76-78,86, 
145, 150-151, 195, 196, 213, 219, 220, 
270; sympathy of, 78, 79, 189, 206, 
206, 220, 228, 230; characteristics 
of, 87, 88, 90, 182, 190, 195, 209-210, 
218, 269; of Paris, 91; demands of, 
98, 105-106, 107-106, 135-136, 138, 
178, 180, 191, 192, 198-199, 217-218, 

330-229, 124. 289-270: ot HoUtre. 

or L 

a XIV 

Jtaliui. 174; or PIuDtu) 
mpoDBtble for dnunatic fail ares, 
333 i an J Ibe ■upemalural, ZSI-S^G ; 
and the morality of iilHfs, 236-231 ; 
not gonaidered In the clmet- 
drenm. 2IiO-2B3 ; lamrable to pnetlc 
dnuiiaH.2G8,2flo,2;0; Castelvetro'i 
Ideas about, 2»4; Fraicb, 31)9, SKI. 

Aogier, Smile. IS, 38, TS, 11«, 232; 
Oendre >li! M. PoiHer, tlie. n-J8, 
104. 118; Pou/ FareUier, 263. 

AuguaClDo, 9k1iiI, 00. 

Baker, Oeorge F.. /leiB((>jn««i( tj^ 

Shakepfre at a IMimatlM. tl3. 
Ballad-opera, tbe, 111. 124. 

BanTllle, TbMKlorB do, GTlngalTt, 

BaiTle, J. M., 18.270; PelerPaH. 210. 
Bartley, quoted by FUnchi, UM. 
BeanmaraHaln. 7, 8, HI, UO, M7, 2H; 

Marrtage of Figaro, the, SS; £ai^ 

btrnfaevtae, the, 347. 
Baaamont. Francla, 117, 21%, 01). 

1. Mile., 

Btjan, 31 

BCjart, Aimaude.aa. 

Blackfriu-'a Thea 

, Gaaton, C 
, Napoli 

quoted. 201 ; Art of Poetry, the. 

Booth. Edwin, \3S, 

Bradley, A. C. ; quoted, C8. 160. 214; 
Hegel'i opinions on tragedy, 39- 
100 ; Shakspersan TVoffedy, 140. 

BrandeB, Georg, 244. 

Brotbortaood ol tbe Pasalon, the. 393. 

Browning, Robert, 232,pS2.2SS; Bing 
aiid the nook, the. 35; Blot «n Uc 
'Scutcheon, tbe, 3oe. 232, 353. 2«T. 
263; Strafford. 252; Pippa Passea. 

FerdiDabd, hia " law at 

the drama." 03-108; Annaln i» 

TMStre.aS] £poquea rfu ThMrt 
Prantaiii,S3\ quoted, 132, 2St-KL 

Burboge, Hlchara. 30, 49, 160, 

Burbe, Edmuad, quoted, 1, 90. 

Butcher. Frarussor. quoted, lOI-lOI. 

Butler. Nicholas Murray, True ani 
fait Oemoeracy, 82. 

OlderoD, Fodro. 4.48. 79, 90. 125. 2S, 

247; Alcade qf Zaiamea. 34T. 
Campbell, Thonuw, quoted, 34. 
Caiit«lietro, M. 283-284, 286. 
Coller, LudnTlu. quoted. M-es. 
CbampmesH, Mile. de. 34, 43. IB). 
Ctuuce. 201 (See also Accident). 
Chapman. George, 23G, XB«, 237. 
Charaotets. 130, 103. "~ " " 


241 ; as found in farce. ttagedy,n 

143, 144; in Greek drama. 14B. UO, 
164, 166; and the soliloquy, 148, 14». 
UO-IGl; vitality of drams residw 
Id. 1S3, 154, liH), 174; limited meuu 
of presenting, 194, leZ; must speak 
for theiooelTeB, lU, UO, 168. 201; 

fn French drama. 156, 167, 159, IBS. 

In Tiirgfloieirs no*-elB. 157; Id 
Shaknpere, IM, tS9, 165, lG8<leS, 
302, 203, 204, 20S, 244, IX; In English 
drama, 167, 226-227, 330; trana'omi- 
Btlou lb, lel, 204,207, 287 ; artificial 
use of, I8R, 3t3; In Plaatus, 139; 

I9S, 199; arbitrary, 202-208, 331; 

truth necesBory in drawing, 201. 

219, 222-224; In modem drama. 

265; in the poetic drama, 267; 

Professor Louunbury on, 267-268. 
Chaucer, 261. 

Children of Paul's, the. 41. 
Chorus, the, S, 14-U, 17, 40,50, Gl, E7. 

146, 2Sti. 
Chronicle-play, tbe, 17, 97, 103, 111. 
/ 112.113,238; purpose and charac- 
ter of, 114-116; examples of, US; 

of Shakapere, 122. 



Cicero, quoted, 83. 

Cinthio, Giraldi, 281,285; Discourse 
on Comedy and Tragedy, 281. 

Classification, need of, 110, 114; 
place and purpose of, 124 ; as de- 
vised by the French, 126. 

Closet-drama, the, 26, 80, 111, 266, 
276; general discussion, 250-261. 

Coleridge, Samudl Taylor, 101, 111, 
252; quoted, 99, 278-279; Hemorse, 

Collier, Jeremy, quoted, 272. 

Collins, Wilkie, 193. 

Colosseum, the (See Arena). 

Com^die-Fran9aise, the, 52, 81. 

Comidie-larmoyante, the, 124. 

Comedies, the, of Barrie and Shaw, 
18 ; of Sheridan, 48, 127, 138 ; of Ter- 
ence, 52, 72 ; of Molifere, 7, 65, 69-70, 
137; English, 41, 78; French, 75; 
of Plautus, 125; of Augier, 76; of 
Oscar Wilde, 127; of Shakspere, 
119, 122, 124, 130; of Ben Jonson, 
119, 289; of Congreve, 138; of Du- 
mas^, 128; of the Greeks and 
Romans, 144. 

Comedy, 100, 103, 113, 115, 117, 118, 
120-121, 123, 124, 151, 192, 196, 224; 
defined, 96; English, 7, 41, 83, 127, 
226-227; French, 7, 124, 142; Italian, 
142; Greek, 171-172; Latin, 171-172, 
259, 283. 

Comedy-of -Character, the, 197. 

Comedy - of - cloak - and - sword, the, 

Comedy-of -humors, the. 111, 119, 125, 

Comedy-of-manners, the, 7, 118, 
119-120, 121, 197, 221. 

Comedy-of-masks, the (See Italian 

Communal element in drama, the, 
13, 16, 79, 93, 103. 

Confidant, the, 146. 

Congreye, William, 48, 119, 128, 138, 
227; Way of the World, the, 118, 
127; Love for Love, 130. 

Content of the drama, the, 217, 222. 

Conventions, 199, 220, 284; in Shak- 
spere, 288 (See also Traditions; 
also chap. yii). 

Coquelin, 34, 36-37, 38, 40, 113, 160. 

Comeille, 7, 17, 26, 59, 80, %, 137, 138, 
142, 143, 207, 232, 274, 276, 286, 288, 
293; Cidt the, 91, 93, 94, 116, 136, 143, 

Costume-play, the, 261-262, 266. 

" Creating a character," 37. 

Criterion Theater, the, 77. 

Cueva, Juan de la, 285. 

Cuvier, Baron, 162. 

Cyprus, 286. 

D'Annunzio, Gabriele, 67. 

D'Arc, Jeanne, 78. 

D'Aubignac, Abb^, 94, 276, 285; 
quoted, 69; PraMque du Thidtre, 
145; English translation of d'Au- 
bignac, 228. 

Dekker, Thomas, 235; Old Fortuna^ 
tus, 235-236; Shoemaker's Holi- 
day, the, 236. 

Democracy of the drama, the, 24-27, 
79-80, 81-82, 85, 89, 91, 282. 

Detective-story, the, 112, 191, 224. 

Devices, artificial, 185-186; of eaves- 
dropping, 220; of Shakspere, 244; 
the mansions, a medieval device, 

Diagram of interest, the, 212-217, 
219; Diagram A, 213; B, 214; C, 
214; D, 215; E, 215, 218; F, 216, 218; 
G, 216, 218; H, 216, 218; I, J, 217, 

Dialogue, 92, 105, 114, 122, 127, 128, 
129, 180, 236, 251; classification of, 
126; condensation of, 135, 136, 139; 
of Ibsen, 137; of English and 
French dramatists, 137-138, 184; 
of Sanskrit drama, 141 ; as a means 
of exposition, 181; closet-drama a 
poem in, 250, 252, 259, 270; in the 
passion-play, 291. 

Dickens, Charles, 126, 175,193,273; 
Bamaby Rudge, 193; Nicholas 
Nickleby, 273-274, 294. 

Dick Turpin, 150. 

Dionysus, theater of, 48, 49-{Sl, 68, 65, 

Don Quixote, 155. , 

Drake, Sir Francis, 241. 

Drama, the, origin of, quoted from 

Esaentlal Btmeele od 218 

^^^B tromr.roaee.lO-ll; frnmJebb. 14; 

^^^P deflneil, \I2-^: lis kinship with 

Kuripldee, 19, 78-70, 181, 232; JIa 

tU, 74. UB; Medea. 74. 7S, I5S, IS 

IpKU/e«.ia. 74. 

^^B lfl(liceBtui7,S3S,SST. 

Europe. 73, 28B. 

- EiposiHon," deOned, 180; dii 

^^H Slubipere. iS^ rn, 27S. 

cussed, 181-lBOi clearness in. n« 

^^H Drni; Luie TtaesMr, M. U, 01-«2. 

esaarj, IM-lao, 213. 247; in WAtto 

^H Drydon, John, M, 130, IM; quoted, 


^^H K; ^^panliAJ'Wai', tbe,I9e. 

^H nu«>nge, IS. 

^H Dnmiu. Alexandre, tbe elder, m. 

mimes and mnalcaJ-Bbows. 226; » 

^H ITS, IT8, 183. 232; S<tJ»Acon. IIB; 

MuasBt, 258, 262 : In Feter Pan. fX 

^H Mmtmo<^ll« Oe BcUe JOe. 183. 

Faroe. 10». 113, 117, 118, 120. 121, 134 

^^H Duiuas, Alexiuidre.^. U, US, 193, 

181. 221, 2M. 263, asi; deaned, se 

^HL IM, isfl,23i.23a.2H: z>«ni-»>7Ulr, 

in Manure's work, 122; In Sbok 

BpeTe.I22,123,ia4,m. 188. 

^^B las. sT-t, ra4i n^nnw ao aaude. 


^^B the, 183-184. 

Fechter, Cbarles, 16a. 216. 

^^H Quae, Eleanon, 3E. 

Ferrier, M. Panl, Rote, M. 

Fielding, Henry, 191; Tom. Jomi. 

^H Eave<idrap]<lng,m 

^^m Edbes'^n^, ^■ 

Fitch, Cljde. 48, 87; Barbae 

^^H £c]«nnHin,J. P.,Sil,333. 

iYlftcMe. 77-78; aitnlms, the, 117. 

^^m EdlsoD, Tbomns, M. 

Flaubert. Clusiave, 230. 

^^m Egypt, ttveto^ComtM of, 134. 

Ftotoher, John, 117, MS. 219; FUUlf 

^^r Ellaibeth, Queen, 41. 10. 2S3, 23T, 238. 

^B £ll2abethBii HndicDcca (See Audl- 


FoUdrama, literary drama devel- 

oi>eil trom, B2, 286, 291; despi^eil 

^B TS. Ill, 119. 12S, 214, 2IS&, sa (See 

^H also chap. xl). 

Form ot tbe drama, the. 217, 222. 

^H EHiabethuD dnuontlsU. tUe, 19.41, 

Franee. 7, 17, 49. 61, 71, 72, 76, 77, 79, 

^H 47, 4S, 67, 64, 218, 2M. 2ffi, 2M, 28(5, 

91. IM. 143, 232, 258, 23S, 286, 290, 

^H 2S« (See also chap. xi). 

291, 292, 2B4. 

^H EllzaLetJiBji Ikeracure. IIM, 237. 

Franeeaca da Rimini, 193. 

Frederlok tlie Great, 96. 

^H 49, M-S7, ra, flO, 62, 65, IW, 138, 237- 

Free will, belief in, faTOrable to 

^H EneTgy at tbe English race, the, 233, 

totle, IDl; importance to drama 

explained by Bruuetitre, 193 

^K England. 7, 48, TO, 124, 232, 200, 2Bfi, 

(8ee also Human will). 

French Academy, tbe, 91, 274. 

^B English drama, S58-259. 2£0, 264 

French, characleriitlcH ot the, 2M- 

^H (S«e also Eliiabetban drama). 

H English, thenter, the, 13D, 2W. 

Frenoh drama, the, 79-M, 102, 124, 

^m . EsEenClal piinciple of drama, the, 

145, 146, 232, 258, 259. 275. 2S0, 288. 

^H| EBBential qnallty of drama, tbe, 21- 

French goTemment, the, 84. 

HT 22, 92-B3, 250. 



French painter, the, quoted, 222. 

French theater, the, 143; tennis- 
court of Molifere, the, 45, 48, 59-60, 
65, 69; Italianate theaters at Paris, 

Freytag, Gustave, artificial pyramid 
of, 213; Technic of the Z)rama, the, 

Frobisher, Sir Martin, 241. 

. Frourfrou (Meilhac and Hal6vy), 120. 

" Function of the crowd," the drama 
as a, 79, 81, 82, 85. 

Garrick, David, 34, 167. 

Gautier, Th^ophile, 85, 234. 

German drama, the, 7, 80, 144. 

Germany, 7, 80 ; court-theaters in, 81 ; 
subsidized opera-houses in, 81. 

Giacommetti, Marie Antoinette^ 115. 

Gillette, William, 196; Secret Ser- 
vice^ 196. , 

Globe Theater, the, 58, 143, 153, 238, 

Goethe, 80-81, 96, 194; quoted, 186- 
187, 253; Faust, 25, 74; Wilhelm 
Meister, quoted from, 99 ; Gdtz, 253. 

Goldsmith, Oliver, 113 ; She Stoops 
to Conquer, 113, 120. 

Gozzi, Carlo, on the number of situa- 
tions in drama, 193-194. 

Great Britain, 76, 110, 258. 

Greece, 79, 110, 142, 232. 

Greek actors, 50-51. 

Greek drama, the, 57-58, 74, 79, 89, 
91, 118, 141, 142, 144, 163-164, 171-172, 
232, 237, 265, 279; evolution of, 4-5, 
14-15, 17, 145, 285 ; analyzed by Aris- 
totle, 276-277, 280, 282; the uni- 
ties In, 277, 279-281, 284-285, 288 ; the 
trilogy in, 288 (See also Greek 

Greek dramatists, the, 73-74, 101, 
^64-165. 280, 281, 284, 288. 

Greeks, the, 277; their good sense in 
art, 193, 283 ; their artistic percep- 
tion, 214; their tragedy cannot be 
imitated, 254; Sidney's belief re- 
garding, 257. 

Greek theater, the, 5,45, 48, 49-51,53, 
57, 58, 65, 74, 138, 152, 279, 285. 

Greek tragedy, 57, 89, 96, 110, 163-165, 

213-214, 259,277; attempted resus- 
citation of, 253, 254. 

Greene, Robert, 119, 246, 247. 

Grimstadt, 70. 

Groos, Professor, quoted, 103. 

Grosse, Professor, quoted, 10-11. 

Gummere, F. B., quoted, 14; his 
treatment of the popular ballad, 

Gyp, social satires of, 92. 

Haigh, A. E., quoted, 44; Tragic 
Drama of the Greeks, the, 57. 

Hamilton, Clayton, quoted, 88. 

Hamilton, Sir William, quoted, 109. 

Hardy, Alexandre, 17, 293. 

Harrigan, Edward, 125. 

Harte, Bret, 228. 

Hauptmann, Gerhart, 144, 216; 
Weavers, the, 216; Sunken Bell, 
the, 269. 

Hawthorne, Nathaniel, Scarlet Let- 
ter, the, 200, 231, 278. 

Hazlitt, William, 187, 246; quoted, 

Hegel, 99, 101, 102; quoted on tra- 
gedy, 99-100. 

Henry IV of France, 96. 

Henry VITI of England, 238. 

Herkomer, Sir Henry, quoted, 63. 

Heroic-comedy, the, 37, 113. 

Heroic-play, the. 111, 124. 

Heroines of Shakspere, the, 30-31, 

Hervieu, Paul, 18. 

Heywood, Thomas, 19; A Woman 
Killed urith Kindness, 19. 

Hibben, John Grier, quoted, 86. 

High-comedy, the, 118-119, 120, 121, 

Him, quoted, 9-10. ^ 

History, a type of Shaksperian play, ^ 
the (See Chronicle-play). 

Histrionic temperament, the, 34, 39. 

Hogarth, William, 228. 

Homer, the poems of, 74; Iliad, the, 

Hopkins, Miss Priscilla, 41. 

Hotel de Bourgogne, 292. 

Howard, Bronson, 128; Banker** 
Daughter, the, 76-77. 

HngO. Victor. 148. 199. 307, MS. MS, 

jBpBiiMO theater, tbe. l«-«t. 

JM.»sr-aS8.2M,«70.a74.2M; Crom- 

Jebb. Sir Richa,rd, 23; quoted, 14. 

«*/(. 8,199. 374; /h<»mi«. 18. 207, 

JflHenon, Joseph, quoted, 21. 

Mfl 318; prefaca from, quoted. 

M; ff-r.ia«(. 1«9. 160, fflB-Mfl. Bat. 

Jenkln, Fleemlng, 23. 

aH; MUifaUt*. tha. 150. 

Jeroaalem. the Tecaple at, 292. 

Bum>D iiMure tn tbe druu, IM, 

Jewitb theater, ihe. 1*1, 


Johnson, Samuel, 252; quoted, 63, 

Human nUl, malnspriiig of drRmo, 

273. 288; Irerui. 2S2. 

w. on, OS. loo-ioi. loa, m, iM, 2ta; 

Jones, Henry Arthur, G7; Bivnoe- 

MoHhlavDlU'i ompliuli tm, l(U; 

liat. the, 117; Llart, the, US; Mid- 

Hiuley, Tbonus Henry, 26S. 

(he Modem Drama, quoted, 261. 

Jonson. Ben, 48, 110. 12s, 332, 374, 

Ibaen, 7, ». W, 4S, 48. 68, G4. S7, 70. 71. 

215.286, 28S. 28S. 280; Evem Man 

1», 137, 144. 181, IM. SOB. M7, 208. 


214, »(t. 241, 967. »U. 304, 274. 204 : 

Jordan, Mrs.. 167. 

fih«.(B, T, lie, 131, ai4. 347. 374. »4; 

Joseph and Potiphar'a wife, 72. 

/)ofC« flouM, Itc, 107.301; Komier- 

»H«tm. 181; MMda, Oabler. WS; 


raiara of Society, 208; Love'a 

Omfrfy. 9«4; When We Dead 

Ke>D, Edmund, 163. 

.JuxUrni. 264. 

Kemble, John Fhlllp, 32, 41. 

King ot Rome, the, 38. 

Knowlen, J. Bberldan, 2X3; Fir- 

glMnt. 981, 984; HuTteMaelc. the. 


Ihe nit^re piaywrleht. 170; in me 

Kjd, iss; Spaiiinh Tragedy, the, 19. 

lablohe, EuEf^ne, W. 

T^ Hart>e. Jean de. 94. 

maUiHB, 16.1; W the mere plsy- 

Iamb, ChnrlBS, 19. 32. 33, 41. 226-327. 

wriHUt. 170. 

232.246; qnoted, l.M. 237; Mr. it.. 

Irving. Sir Henry, 39-M, 138, IBS. 

ISl; SpecSmtnt.iiS. 

Latin comedy. 171-172, 259, 283. 

ItBliHD d[aniB.7: popalur. despised 

latin drama, the, 141, 142 (Sea also 

by Itall&n crlUea, 282^283; cnm- 

Home, drama of). Ibe. 47, GO, 117. 142, 

Latin dramatists, the. 53, 

Latin tragedy, 283. 

ItalEan Renascence, the, art of, 28 ; 


LeUon, fiuBtavB, 86; quoted, 87. 

cism of, 94, 267, 27fi, 3»1, 292-283, 


Italy. 142, 260, 2B3. 

38; Lo«Ue rfe UgneToOa,, 39; ia- 


James I of England, 233. 

James, Henry, 223; qnoted, 17B. 

Le Sage, Ott Bias. 96. 113. 

James, William, qnoted, 11. 

Lea»ine, 7, 20, 96. 97. 257. 274. 278. 

Jameson, Mrs. Anna, 162; Qirlhoad 

(}/■ ShakBptrt-i Herolnei. the. 16S. 

Lewes, George Heaiy, 168. 



Line of interest, the, 212, 213 (See 
also Diagram of interest). 

Literary drama, the, developed from 
the unliterary, 8, 17-18; essential 
qualities of, 20-23; defined, 92-93; 
developed from folk-drama, 92, 
283, 286, 291. 

Literature and drama, 1-3, 20-23 ; 
divorced in Elizabeth's time, 237 ; 
in the 19th century, 249 ; closet- 
drama follows divorce between, 

London, 72, 76, 77, 91, 186, 236, 238, 

London Assurance^ 129. 

Louis XIV, 46, 69, 139, 144. 

Lounsbury, T. R., 267, 290 ; quoted, 

Lowell, James Russell, 246; quoted, 

Lyly, John, 41. 

Lyrical-burlesque, the, of Aristoph- 
anes, 117; of the Greeks, 125. 

Lytton, Bulwer, 39; Lady of Lyons, 
the, 39; RichelieUy 39, 261, 264. 

Macaulay, Lord, 227. 

Machiavelli, 102-103. 

Mackaye, Percy, Jeanne d*Arc, 115. 

Macready, 39, 252. 

Madrid, 73. 

Maeterlinck, Maurice, 262 ; Intruder ^ 
the, 262, 264; PelUas and MUir 
eandSy 262. 

Mahaffy, John P., 78. 

" Mansions," 47. 54, 143, 292, 293. 

Manzoni, Alessandro, 253. 

Marivaux, Pierre de, 294. 

Marlowe, Christopher, 17, 32, 48, 79, 
232; Jew of Malta, the, 32; Tam- 
burlaine, 32; Doctor Faustus, 247. 

Mars, Mile., 39. 

Massinger, Philip, 246, 247, 263 ; Ro- 
man Actor, the, 247; New Way to 
pay Old Debts, a, 263. 

Medieval drama, the, 15-16, 53-55, 72, 
141, 144, 238, 283, 291-292. 

Medieval theater, the, 46, 47, 48, 53- 
67, 142, 143. 

Melodrama, 18, 104, 120, 121, 124, 224, 
262; in Shakspere, 122; Hamlet 

developed from, 165-166; Hamlet 
treated by Fechter as, 168 ; in Chap- 
man's plays, 257; Hugo's plays 
modelled upon, 257-258, 270. 

Menander, 6, 21, 118, 232. 

Mermaid, the, 289. 

Mimicry in children, 11. 

Mintumo, 285. 

Miracle-play, the, 47, 238, 259, 282. 

Modem drama, the, 67, 114, 141; 
compared with earlier drama, 125, 
265; disappearance of soliloquy 
from, 144; line of interest in, 213; 
no excuse for closet- drama in, 
260; prose and poetry in, 249-250; 
chief characteristics of, 265; the 
Unity of Action in, 277. 

Modem dramatists, the, 48, 60, 63, 
67, 75, 106, 144, 209, 271 ; their viola- 
tion of "rules of the drama," 94; 
who have handled the comedy-of- 
manners, 118 ; their avoidance of 
the romantic-comedy, 119; dis- 
card the soliloquy, 145, 148, 151; 
their attitude toward the unities, 
294; compared with Elizabethan, 
246, 265. 

Modem theater, the, 48, 63, 67, 70, 
119, 138, 139-140, 142, 151, 238, 249, 

Molifere, 4, 6, 7, 25, 26, 33, 34, 45, 48, 
59-60, 65, 66, 69, 71, 80, 83, 90, 96, 122, 
125, 130, 131, 137, 140, 141, 142, 148, 
149, 155, 156, 157, 159, 161, 163, 166, 
186, 187, 195, 196, 230, 232, 247, 256, 
271, 283, 293, 294; Pricietises Ridi- 
cules, the, 4; Am,our Midecin, the, 
4; Bourgeois Oentilhomine, the, 
33, 163; TaHuffe, 33, 82, 107, 112, 
121, 147-148, 165, 156, 157, 186, 196, 
200, 247, 278; Misanthrope, the, 33, 
112, 139, 156, 167; School for Hus- 
bands, the, 60; School for Wives, 
the, 94; Femmes Savantes, the, 
118; Scapin, 126; Don Juan, 136, 
161, 166, 293; Miser, the, 150. 

Molifere, Mile, de, 160. 

Morality, in the drama, 225-231 ; in 
prose-flction, 225, 227, 228, 230-231. 

Morality-play, the, 17, 30, 111, 119. 

Mot, the, 12^; mot d* esprit, the, 128, 


in, la. us, Ut, 131; noc 
cam, »■, IX, 130, IStj 
tanuon. tb*, ISt. US. 13 

Harrv- QKbort, i]u«li>il. S! 

Huilckl-ouiunlj', Um, VM, 
aim Mculcal-nli'Mriit. 

HiuHi, Airnd cii>. m, ase, sex; 

Jlniti*ti*re'ii Ininuni un. 93; (M 

Nsio, 30), »!(l, 

Ncttawluiib. the. aM. 

Ne* Vork, TS. 78. T7, M, 185. MI. 

Nlaard, quoUxl, 7t. 

NOTSI, Ibe. Knd tbe pla;, 84, K, B4, 
9fc ST. »B, IW, IM. 1TB, IM, 17B-1W. 
1W-1S1, 107-138. ITO, 300-301. EB. 
230, MD; uid tbe Bhort-story, 111 ; 
wiih-»-piiiT(o»p, 112- dlnloguB lu, 
136: lupbuud cbUBcter or the 
EnBUib, ITS; in tbe IBth oanturj, 


OUpbant, Mra. MarBaret, IBUIBS; 
Slieridan, 191; quoted, trom, IU3. 

O'Neill, Mlas, 2G3. 

Opera, [be coniontlon of, 134; Tol- 
■toj'a altaakoD, 134; deatb toler- 
ated lb, IBS. 

Optra-boMjfe, tbp, 124. 

U7i>ra-comi(fuc Ibe. 124. 

Orange, tbe Roman tbeotor nt, 4S, 

OrclieBtni, the Greak, 41M0, 140, 2TS, 
•aa; the IComan, SI. 

teDtlOD of. ^M•, BiltlBb panto- 
Fani. 38, TO, 72. 7«, TT, 89, SI. Iia, IW. 

Puts, charaetera oomposed aa, WO, 
IM-ie; : Jn tbe Sehool/or Soa mlaJ, 
167 tSeealBo "Star-parta"). 

I>WIC^. BUlw, dictnm o[, 114. 

Pawlm-play. tbe, ICSS-SIi, 141. lU, 

PciKllrhes, £53. 
Pasuml-iDmance, tbe. 112. 
P«rT;. BUia, qaoled.211. 
Fhlillpa. Stephen, 286-263; Clj/sses. 

PlDero. air Artbnr. B7. 203, 217,- blB 
definition o( comedy. 120; Bi» 
Houte In Order. 208; Second Mrs, 
TanqucraD. the, 247. 

Pll^recaurt, 18. 

Plagiarist, the scboolboj'a defini- 
tion ol a, 194. 

PUmOlM, June* Bobiiuim, qaoted, 

308.219; in Sbakipere.14T.lH6, IBT- 

repeated use or old pints, IS3, 154. 

of choracter and, IM, 160, 161-163, 
203; In MoUere. 153, IDC; in tha 
comedy-of-mastoi, 174; ot the 
Wfaimri. 216; In Elliabethan 
drama, 233; in Chapman's playa, 
207; Professor I»iinalnirj on, 26T- 
268; in Greek drama. 280. 

Poe, EdBsr Allan, 193. 

Poetlc-justfee, 228. 

Poetrj, iirimllive, H; not a matter of 

versa, 2S0-2S1, 207. 
Pompelan pIctoraB, 134. 



Portuguese drama, the, 141. 
Preparation, the dramatist's art, 183. 
Prisoner of Zenda^ the, 117, 209. 
Probable, necessary in drama, the, 

Problem-play, the. 111 ; of Ibsen, 125. 
Prodigal Son, the, 3. 
Prologue, the, 181; in FMora^ 184; 

in the Captives, 190. 
Prose-Fiction (See the Novel). 
Psychology of the crowd, the, 8&-88. 
Punch and Judy, 226. 

•* Quarrel of the Cid," the, 274. 

Rachel, 38. 

Racine, 21, 34, 43, 74, 80, 137, 232, 247, 

288, 293, 294 ; P?Udre, 146, 247. 
Red Bull Theater, the, 256. 
Regnier, 39. 
Rehearsal^ the, 130. 
Rembrandt, 267. 
Restoration, the, comedy of, 7, 226; 

theater of, 46, 48-49, 61-62, 63, 65, 238. 
Reynolds, Sir Joshua, quoted, 1. 
Richelieu. Cardinal, 91, 96, 274; 

theater of, 60. 
Rip Fan Wiiikle, 150. 
Robortello, 94, 281 ; quoted, 281. 
Roman sculptures, 135. 
Roman theater, the, 49, 51-53. 
Romance, 110, 111. 
Romance-of-chivalry, the, 112. 
Romantic-comedies, of Shakspere, 

the, 119, 123, 124, 278. 
Rome, drama of, 89, 91, 129, 144, 259, 

260 (See also Latin drama). 
Roscius, 34. 
Rostand, Edmund, 37, 58, 67, 113, 

258, 259; Cyrano de Bergerac, 35, 

37,113; Aiglon, the, 3S. 
Rowe, Nicholas, 62. 
♦'Rules of the drama," 73, 91; de- 
clared invalid by Brunetifere, 93; 

compared with '* law of the 

drama," 96-97 (See also chap. 

Ruslcin, John, 235. 

Saint-Gaudens, Augustus, quoted, 

Salamis, 96. 

Salvini, Tommaso, 168. 

Sand, George, quoted, 230. 

Sandeau, Jules, 119; Gendre de M. 
Poirier, the, 75-76, 104, 118. 

Sanskrit drama, the, 141. 

Sarcey, Francisque, 20, 105, 106, 107» 
209, 276; his principle of the scenes 
dtfaire, 105-108, 219; quoted, 231. 

Sardou, Yictorien, 35, 184, 185, 186, 
204; Fidora, 35, 184; Oncle Sam, 
84; Nos Intimes, 184; FamiUe Be- 
noiton, the, 184; TModora, 184; 
Gismonda, 184; Patrie, 204-205. 

Satires of Sheridan and Beaumar- 
chais, 117. 

Scaliger, 274, 283, 285. 

Scenery, 5, 45, 46, 47, 49, 50, 51, 55, 56, 
57, 58, 59, 60, 62, 63, 65, 66, 138, 139, 
142, 238, 265, 285, 293. 

Scenes Afaire^ the, 105-108, 219. 

Schelling, Felix E., 114. 

Schiller, 80, 96, 194, 207; Robbers, the, 

Schlegel, quoted, 99. 

Scott, Sir Walter, 175; Woodstock, 
175-176; Heart of Midlothian, 
the, 200; Waverley Novels, the, 

Scribe, Eugene, 19, 20, 21, 40, 42, 44, 
76, 170, 182, 184, 186, 246, 247, 260, 
Bruneti6re*s lecture on, 93 ; Ad- 
rienne Lecouvreur, 182; Ladies* 
Battle, the, 247. 

Sea-tale, the, 112. 

Semi-medieval drama, 238, 239, 295; 
the theater, 48, 119, 244, 256, 257, 
265; playwrights, 240, 246; audi- 
ences, 242 (See also Elizabethan 

Seneca, 102, 259. 

Sense-of -humor, the, 110; of Sheri- 
dan, 128. 

Sentimental-comedy, the. 111, 124. 

Serious drama, the, defined, 95; tra- 
gedy, as a type of, 117, 118, 121 ; as 
distinguished from melodrama, 
124, 224; truth necessary in, 223; 
of the French, 294. 

S^vign^, Mme. de, 43. 

Shakspere, 4, 5, 8, 19, 26, 29, 30-33, 34, 

41. 4a, 4B. W, S7. ES, aO, K, «, «. 89. 

TO. n. T*. TO, 7». », n, M. Ill, lis, 

114, lU. Il>. t», Ua, IM, UO. 131, 1>7, 

ia«,iM. i*i.ta,ia.iv,u»,u»,Ki. 

IM, UB, in, Ml UV. IW. 113. IBl. IM. 

Ml , MH. uu. 2ST. -^(M. atut, ms, tw. iM. 

liHt, vm; HnmM. IS. HI. »«, W, «2. 

4, IM, 130, l»!, lU, 
tttt, tiia-IIM. IW, in, 9». 319, 2X. 

an, 2». 9i»i ^ rriH /.»« n. id, ao. 

A, tUA, 1K8. 14U. UT, im-l«P, IM, 9», 
W, 1», IVC, nUi ,4»> r«u (Aar 
*nrf* r-'/, Kl. IM, aHi ruii(0^ 
Ifight.K. W«; aitreHanCiif lentre, 

the. 30, )i», iw, ira, 3H, im, m^ 
^/iwA Jdo jibcw ifBihtiif^, ae, 

lis, 2Ca, AM. 3M. ITSi Hfiu Jn- 
dranlcw, 11. US; Semeo awl 
J\ditt. la. 138. ISO, 173, 1T4, 187, Wl. 
M4. am, 3;§ ; Maebelh, 1U7, 113, 111. 

ISO, m, 300, IBS, aw, ass, 37a, ist; 
aseiiii. lar, ui, in, ut, ibiv, ut, 
w, icT-iM, la, 111. »7, ui, m, 
IBS, ao«-a». BIB. ml, aas, M3, 2H, 

Mi. 27S, Ml, 280; trinfWs Tale. 
thB. 117. 123, IS3. IH, ISa, 204, 278; 
COmt'ti/ qf E/Tori, tbe. im, I2fi, 

187, 1M-Ig», MS; iferry JCOw qf 
WinOtor. the, 123. 101 ; Taming of 
the Shrew, tbe, isai TVolJiu and 
CV«u((ia. ISS, 124^ ClfmtiiiUM,t33, 

188, 343. 2M ; Tempeit, the, 123. 
Isa, 389, 300; aUdgMmmer Ki^M't 
iWam, 123, 324-228; FttHtaff, 131; 
IfKniv C, 13«; JuHm Ctomi-, 13B, 
137, 203. 287; Richard III. 143; 
Ifcnni / r, IBl ; TVo OfiB((emen of 
Verona, VA; King Lear, 344. 

Bha.11, O. B.. 18. 

Slicllej, Percy ByBshe. 212; Chanel, 

the, sol; quoted, 239. 
Bheridnn, B. B,, T, 8, 40-41, 48, 81-02, 


», 117, 138, 130. 138, 1( 

SchoKlfor Saaiutal, tlie. 
41, 01-82. 107, 118, 131, 1*7, 131, laS, 
U7, I91-ia3. leS; mvaH. Ota, 139; 
OlMc tbe, 133, lao, 140, ISO. 

Stion-vlor]'. tbr, im. 112; a type by 
iBt-ir. 111. 

SiJDty. Sir Pbilip, 4«. IIB, 237,274. 
382. 383; Difenae of Poeti). tbe. 91, 
374. 3(». 
Iluatloni In the drams, number of. 

SoclBl-tlnuan. the. 104; of Tlisfn, I, 

18, 71.137. 130.917; of nauptmaim. 

SoUloquy, the, 64. 143-151, 181, m 

SoplUMlM, T, S. 15, 19, 30, 39, 33. 31 

IBB. 180. 1811. 208. 309, 214, 232. 247, 
aSTj lEiUjMt the fflitff. 7. fiS, 101, 
131. l«i. 180, ISl, 185, 300, 208-200, 
314, 231, 347, 378: ArOigone, 74. 180, 

Ipnin, 7, 48, 79, 304, 333, 346, 386, 388, 
Spuilah drama, the, 79. 98, 134. I2S, 

apulsb theMer, tbe, 48. 


Bpeotaton. the (See Audiences). 

pencer, Herbert, Eoonnmy of At- 
tention, 178, 223. 

Spingnrn, 281, 383. 

Stan ilHTd lung of the playhooae, 06, 

" Star-pHrts,'' emmples of. in ploys. 
3»W, 33-43 (See also Parta). 

" SlatlnnB," 54. I<3. 391. 392. 

Stendhal, qnoted. 353. 

StephCD, Sir Leslie, quoted. 358. 

noted, ? 

aiock-flgures, of the theater. 171; 
of Latin comedy, 171 -173 ; of Greek 
comedy, 171-172; of the comcdy- 
or-iDoflks. 173-174. 

Stoker, Bram, 80. 

Snbjectof adrams.the. importnnca 

B, 178; , 

litotle-a dic- 

a, 176; In tbe poetic drama, 
inn, Hermann, 247; Beimat 



plays, 75, 159, 224-225; audiences 
will accept. 224. 
Swinburne, Algernon, 235, 245, 257, 
258 ; Atalanta in Calydon, 253, 254 ; 
Marino Faliero, 256. 

Taine, H., 25 ; quoted, 232. 

Technic, significance of, 5-6 ; com- 
pared with that of the novel, 175- 
176; Goethe, on Molifere's, 187; nec- 
essary to the dramatist, 217-218; 
not mastered by Tennyson, 252; 
studied by real dramatic poets, 

Tennis-court theater, the (See 
French theater). 

Tennyson, Lord Alfred , 40, 46, 252 ; 
Becket , 39-40 . 115, 252 ; Queen Mary, 
115. "* '^ 

Terence, 52, 72, 73, 150, 171. 

Thackeray, W. M., 154, 155, 191, 228, 
230; VanUy Fair, 155, 228, 278; 
Henry Esmond, 191, 193. 

Thebes, 79. 

Theobald, Lewis, 62. 

Theocritus, idyls of, 92. 

Thespis, 17. 

Thomas, Au^stus, 67. 

Thomdike, Ashley H., 117; Tragedy, 
110; quoted, 249. 

Tokio, 140. 

Tolstoy, 134; Anna Karinina, 200, 
231, 278. 

Traditions, 47, 54, 55, 220, 265; in 
Greek tragedy, 164-165, 193; in 
Shakspere, 288 (See also Conven- 
tions ; also chap. vii). 

TragMie-bourgeoise, the, 124. 

Tragedies, Greek, 5, 51, 52, 74, 118, 
144; of Comeille, 7, 137; of Sopho- 
cles, 65, 165; of Seneca, 102; of 
Shakspere, 113, 122, 124, 130, 137; 
of Racine, 137; of i£schylus, 165; 
of the Romans, 144. 

Tragedy, 97, 104, HI, 115, 116, 117, 120, 
121, 201, 207, 221, 222,282, 283; de- 
fined, 95; Schlegel, Coleridge, and 
Hegel on, 99-100 ; Aristotle on, 101 ; 
Butcher on, 102; development of 
English, 102 ; Roman, 129 ; classicist 
French, 146 ; Secret Service as, 196; 

in Ibsen, 207; Bradley on, 214; the 

unities in, 275 (See also Greek 

Tragedy-of-blood, the, 18, 32, 102, 111, 

112, 115, 122, 123, 124, 241; Hamlet 

developed from, 16&-166. 
Tragicomedy, 111, 124; discussed, 

Trilogy, the (See Greek drama). 
Trissino, 281. 
Troy, fall of, 186, 280. 
Tudors, drama under the, 46, 56. 
Turgenieff, Ivan, his method of 

writing a novel, 157 ; Sm^ke, 200, 

Twain, Mark, Huckleberry Finn, 


Udall, Nicholas, 42; Ralph Hoister 
Doister, 41-42. 

United States, 76, 258. 

Unity, in dramatic development, 
46-47; necessity of, 198; of im- 
pression, in the Weavers, 216; of 
theme, necessary, 247; in Shak- 
spere's tragedies, 278. 

Unity of Action, the, 275, 277, 279, 

283, 284, 288, 290, 294. 

Unity of Place, the, 59, 275, 283, 

284, 289, 290, 291, 293, 294. 

Unity of Time, the, 275, 279, 281, 283, 
284, 287, 288, 290, 294. 

Unliterary drama, basis of the lit- 
erary, the, 8, 16, 17-19, 291. 

Valenciennes, mystery-play at, 64. 
Vega, Lope de, 4, 48, 66, 72, 73, 79, 232, 

274, 285, 286, 287, 290 ; New Art of 

Making Plays, the, 73, 147, 287. 
Verga, Giovanni, 67; Cavalleria 

Jiusticana, 35. 
Vergil, jEneid, the, 166. 
Versailles, 139. 
Vicenza, theater at, 60. 
Visualizing a play, 22-23, 211, 212. 
Voltaire, 60, 99, 176, 286, 294; Simira- 

mis, 61. 

Wagner, Richard, 3 ; music-dramas, 

61 ; Tristan und Isolde, 134. 
Waterbury, Conn., 139. 

Weber ami FitdiU, Uewrs., 125. 

WIMB, 0««r, IS?; tody IFindw 

WMwWr, John, 23«. 

MBre'i J^an, 118, 126, Ji7. 130. 

Wrlmar, coun-theBter u, SO. 

Vim Point. N. \„ 138. 

Words worth, William, quoted. BB. 

WhlitJar^ Jamw MoNeUl, quoted. 

WyeherlBj, WlUlani, 427. 

ZoU, Simile, OemiJUil, 84. 


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